The crocuses in downtown East Hampton were already starting to bloom a couple of weeks ago - a good indicator that it's time to start thinking about ways to start making preparations for your garden this year. Hamptons-based gardeners are sharing their best ideas for how you can be efficient, timely, and thoughtful with your early-spring garden preparations, so by the time summer arrives, you can sit back and watch your garden grow.
1. START SIMPLY
Jim Grimes, of , says that the most important thing to do is also the simplest; to start with the basics. "The usual cleanup starts with cutting back whatever the deer chewed to the ground over the winter, cutting back perennials, that sort of thing," he said. "That's pretty much where everyone needs to start."
2. CLEAN 'EM UP
Something often overlooked when prepping a spring garden are the tools you'll need for the job, according to Pam Healey of . "If you didn't clean and oil your cutting tools and shovels in the fall, repairing and replacing as needed, now's the time to do that," she suggested.
3. SHUFFLE THE DECK
"Mostly, people don't act in their gardens," Grimes said. "They stare at them in the fall, and then stare at them again in the spring, thinking of the things they should've taken care of, but didn't. Now is the time to shuffle the deck and move things around - scale back the things you have too much of, divide them or give them to neighbors. And then you'll have room to rearrange what you have, or add new plants in."
4. TAKE CARE OF YOUR SOIL
Soil, of course, is the foundation of any garden, so Healey has a few suggestions on how you can maximize your soil to help your garden be the best it can be. "Take a soil sample to your local garden center," she said. "Just a trowel full of dirt in a plastic bag, labeled as to what the garden is, whether it's a vegetable garden, flower garden, etc. The center will do a pH test for you to tell you if you need to add lime to your soil. This is also the time to amend your garden with things like compost and peat moss - and, for perennial beds, you can also add something called a pre-emergent, which will help prevent weed seeds from last year from germinating."
5. GET INSPIRED
Choosing plants can be a daunting task for some, with so many varieties, colors, shapes, and heights available. "Take a stroll through your local nursery or garden center to see what you like," suggested Mary Meyer of . "There are always a ton of ideas you'll get, especially once spring arrives in full. You'll see so many cool things, and you'll find yourself saying, 'Oh, I want that. . . and that in my garden.' You will usually end up with more inspiration than you have room for."
6. ORDER EARLY
"Now's the time to think about what you want in your garden specifically," said Jason Spielberg of the . "Educate yourself on the plants. There's no timeline on getting information - and we should be pretty much past the danger of frost now - so it's time to think about exactly what plants you want, where you're going to get them, and start making those orders. Some plants need to be ordered early, or they may not be available once they've sprouted leaves and such, so ordering soon is very important."
7. GIVE YOUR GARDEN AN IDENTITY
Grimes also suggested making sure your garden is a garden with a purpose: "Spring is a good time to think about what you want your garden to be," he said. "Do you want it to attract wildlife, birds, butterflies? For instance, if it's butterflies you like to have around, plant something like Marsh Milkweed. It has beautiful pink and white flowers, and Monarch butterflies love it - they'll live there and return there every year."
8. MAKE A PLAN
"Laying out your garden well is always a great idea," Meyer said. "You want to have a plan, as it helps to know what you're doing. Chart or map out your property as far as measurements, dirt depth, and such, so when you're looking at a plant, and it says it grows three feet or ten feet tall, you'll know what you're getting as far as what it might look like." Meyer said to make an informal chart or blueprint, whether hand-drawn or on your computer, marking where things are already planted (if it's an existing garden) or the overall new scheme if you're starting a new garden.
9. GET SPECIFIC
Specific plants sometimes need specific care in the spring, Carol McClenin of the said. "This is when you should keep your eyes open for early growth," she said, "to see what might need pruning or other things. For example, with roses, when you see one inch of new growth, that's the time to start pruning; for Hydrangeas, now is the time to put down aluminum sulfate, to get their best blue color."
10. JUST FOR FUN
McClenin also has a suggestion that will help jump start not just your garden, but also your enthusiasm for growing plants in general. "Even as you're working on your main garden, it's fun to pick a few other spots outside to get enthused about." She said, "Of course, you can't plant all of your summer plants now, but you can put something in, say, a couple of big pots by your front door or outside your kitchen window, or maybe a window box. Things like hellabores, ranunculus, tulips, and daffodils are all great, and will help you feel like your spring gardening is on its way."