Prepping Your Garden for a Virginia Spring
Living in Northern Virginia, especially in the winter, can seem like living on a roller-coaster. Some weeks the weather is warm, while other weeks may bring six inches of snow and freezing rain. But these elements shouldn’t stop you from adorning your house with the lush garden it deserves! All it takes in the Town of Vienna to create the patch of green or the bloom of flowers on your front lawn is a little planning and a little strategy.
Here are some tips for how to accomplish that as we approach the month of March.
1. Plant Indoors
If it’s snowing outside and dipping into bitter temperatures during the night, you probably don’t want to plant your seeds outside just yet. But you can still plant them inside in little pots! With the right lights and some strategic placing, your basil and tomato plants can bloom inside, in your kitchen or dining room, as they wait for the soil outside to defrost completely.
Plants in a window sill also give your home a cheery, healthy atmosphere. If you’re looking to decorate your home for spring, plants are a lovely natural option to take that can freshen up the air inside and give you some hope for warmer months. There are plenty of local spots to buy seedlings if you aren’t interested in starting with seeds and pots and soil.
Vines work best when given a chance to sprout without icy winds or cold precipitation. The seeds might also have a better chance against squirrels and birds who are hungry for a snack.
2. Know Your Zone
Don’t plan your garden based on what you want to grow. You’ll be doomed to fail from the start if you think you can grow a citrus grove and avocado trees in Northern Virginia. The soil works best with certain kinds of vegetables, vines, roots, flowers, and fruit. Knowing the kind of soil you’re working with is the first step you should take when planning your garden.
Fairfax is located in zone 7a, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The soil is appropriate in February and March for cabbage plants, kale, spinach, and other forms of vegetables. These can be planted also during a lunar cycle, if that’s what you’re measuring by.
3. Consult the Farmer's Almanac
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the last frost of the season typically occurs around April 18. Herbs and root vegetables are best planted before this time. The almanac also offers several helpful tips every month for your specific area.
Some of the tips for February include planting annuals, like hardy pansies and viola. For this time of year, it’s time to prune and add mulch. Trim back the perennials and the tree branches that are overgrown. Plant tulip bulbs and any other kinds of bulbs.
Now is also the time to plant shrubs and trees outside. All the basic design involved in an outdoor renovation can be done during this season. Don’t invest in black pots, though, because in the summer the heat will fry the roots when they sit outside in the sun.
4. Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia
Consider joining a group or club where you and other local gardeners can get together in a physical or virtual space. The Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia are a volunteer group that works with the Virginia Cooperative Extension to promote and educate others on environmentally sound and safe gardening practices and habits.
The club maintains six demonstration gardens throughout the region. If you enjoy gardening, consider joining this group for more information.
5. Follow the Advice of Local Gardeners
There are many local horticulturists around who give tips on what to do during this time of year. According to the program head of the horticulture program at Northern Virginia Community College, March is the best time to prepare flower and vegetable beds. Early weed control is key since now the beds aren’t crowded with your plants at the moment. Don’t pile the mulch on these beds either, because trees and shrubs need room to breathe and grow during this time.
Most experts also recommend using fertilizer to replenish the soil. However, plan that out for whatever circumstances you may be in, because fertilizer reacts best at warm soil temperatures. If the ground is still frozen solid, you may want to wait a few weeks.