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Getting Ready For Gardening

By Paul James

I know, I know. It’s still winter. In fact, despite the warmer-than-usual weather, we’re only three weeks into winter, which means the busy gardening season is still a few weeks away and not exactly top of mind. But there are plenty of tasks to consider tackling between now and early spring so that you’ll be prepared to jump into gardening in earnest.
To Prune or Not to Prune?
Pruning mystifies many a gardener, so let me go out on a limb and offer this advice: When in doubt, don’t prune. I say that because pruning improperly or pruning at the wrong time can do more harm than good. And now is not the ideal time to prune unless you need to remove dead, damaged, or diseased wood. However, the ideal time for pruning most deciduous and evergreen plants is just a few weeks away, and I’ll address the subject as soon as next week.
Soil Tests
Do you really need a soil test? If you’ve just moved into a new property, or if you’re planning to create a new flower or vegetable garden, then the answer is yes. A soil test -- even a simple one that identifies the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in your soil, plus pH -- will tell you what your soil needs (or doesn’t need). Interpreting the results can be tricky, but the folks in our Solution Center can help with that. To learn how to get your soil tested, go to this Tulsa County Master Gardener site.
Keep Compost Cooking
To keep your compost “cooking” during the cold winter months, turn it every few weeks by sticking a shovel or garden fork into the pile and stirring the contents to add much-needed oxygen required for decomposition. Add water as well just to keep the mixture slightly moist.
Tuneup Time
If your mower or blower or string trimmer is in need of a tuneup or repairs, get it to the shop now. If you wait until spring, chances are you’ll wait weeks to get your equipment back while your grass grows out of control. And btw, don’t forget to have the blade of your mower sharpened. A dull blade tears grass, leaving it with ragged edges that turn brown and are more susceptible to diseases.
Fresh Potting Mix?
Should you replace the potting mix in your containers every year? Well, if you can afford to, sure. But if you’re on a budget, it’s perfectly fine to remove one-third to one-half of the old mix and replace it with new. Just toss the old in the compost pile or anywhere in your garden. Do it soon and you’ll be ready to plop in your favorite flowers or herbs in just a few weeks.
Shop Potting Mixes
Look for Leaks
Incredibly, the average household water leak can waste 10,000 gallons of water a year (or 270 loads of laundry), and a considerable percentage of that waste comes from leaky hoses and outdoor faucets. Thankfully, most leaks are easy to fix with a new washer, or simply by ensuring a tight connection between the hose and the spigot.
Sand in Box
Need a super simple way to keep garden tools from rusting? Fill a five-gallon plastic bucket with sand, add about a quart of oil (new or used), and mix well. Each time you use a metal tool, stab it several times into the sand before putting it away. The abrasiveness of the sand will knock off dirt and dust, and the oil will leave a thin sheen on the metal, thereby preventing rust.
Keep Tools Sharp
A sharp edge on shovels and hoes makes a world of difference when you’re trying to dig in or slice through soil. And sharp pruners will save your wrist and forearm, as well as make clean cuts on branches that facilitate healing and minimize the threat of invasion by pests and diseases. But most gardeners never bother to take the time to put a fresh edge on their tools, and that’s too bad. For shovels and hoes, a 12-inch bastard file is ideal. But for pruners we’ve got an inexpensive gizmo that works great.
Shop Tool Sharpener
Rotating Crops
If your tomatoes (or any other crop for that matter) suffered from disease last year, try moving them to a different location this year, ideally one that’s as far away as possible from the original spot. Many disease pathogens overwinter in the soil, and can rear their ugly heads year after year. If your garden is too small to effectively rotate a particular crop, then try growing in a container instead.
Amending Your Soil
The best time to amend your soil is anytime, but getting it done before spring planting begins will give you a jumpstart. A two- to three-inch layer spread over existing garden beds is ideal. Gently work it into the top six inches of soil, or just leave it on the soil surface, where it will slowly work its way into the soil.
Shop Soil Amendments


Happy gardening y'all!

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