What to do in your garden now, no matter where you are in the West.

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From The Complete Book of Ground Covers: 4000 Plants that Reduce Maintenance, Control Erosion, and Beautify the Landscape © Copyright 2022 by Gary Lewis. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Have you been neglecting your vegetable garden or raised beds this winter? If the answer is yes, it might be time to turn that car around and get your hands dirty, because there’s plenty to do that will help you prepare for spring and up your garden output. 

Prep 

Test the viability of vegetable seeds left over from last year by putting a few on a damp paper towel. Fold the towel over the seeds and place in a resealable plastic bag, marking the bag with the name of the vegetable. Store at room temperature and check in a week to see if the seeds have germinated. If not, it’s time to order replacement seed.

If you’re redesigning your garden, indicate where new trees, shrubs, or garden beds will go by marking their locations on the ground with aerosol garden chalk, which comes in many colors. It’s like spray paint, but temporary, and available at any garden center. 

Order seeds, such as bean, corn, eggplant, pepper, pumpkin, tomato, and zucchini, for spring and summer vegetable gardens. 

Maintain 

Turn on drip irrigation systems and repair any leaks. Flush sediment from filters and check screens for algae; clean with a small brush if necessary. 

Rinse off houseplants in a shower and prune faded foliage. When you see the season’s first new growth, fertilize lightly with a plant food formulated for indoor plants. 

Protect 

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Water the garden before forecasted frosts—plants are less susceptible to damage when the soil is moist. 

If your zone allows, continue to sow seeds of cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, chard, and lettuce. 

Plant 

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Fill sunny windowsills with potted English primrose, available in shades of blue, brown, orange, peach, red, white, and yellow. When they stop flowering, plant them in the garden in sun or part shade. They’ll bloom again in the fall.

Start seeds of warm-season vegetables like cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes indoors this month so they’ll be well established in time for May planting outdoors (June in cold country). 

Harvest 

Pick the outer leaves of collards, kale, mizuna, and mustard to add to winter soups. Snip young, tender leaves from the center of each plant to eat raw or braise lightly. 

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