Local gardening experts share how to prepare for the gardening season aheadMar 30, 2023 02:45PM ● By Collette Hayes
Gardening expert Amy Talbot shared an informative presentation on Seed Starting 101 at the Holladay County Library March 4. Talbot provided information on how to provide a protective growing environment in which to get vegetable seeds started and basic tips for companion planting and container gardening. (Collette Hayes/City Journals)
The warmer, longer days of spring have arrived, and it’s time to take steps to prepare for the gardening season ahead. To help out, local gardening experts in the Millcreek and Holladay areas were asked to share their garden expertise with the City Journals.
LaRene Bautner, owner and operator of Millcreek Garden Center, shares decades of gardening experience on garden preparation and a useful timeline of what to plant and when to plant it. Paul Taylor, owner of Paul’s Professional Sprinklers, provides basic insight on spring home sprinkler system maintenance. Holladay resident Amy Talbot offers 25 years of seed starting growing tips and ideas for successful companion planting and container gardening.
Yard cleanup, organization and planning
Millcreek Gardens, winner of the prestigious Best of State Award 2022, is a full garden service center in the Millcreek area. They offer a collection of tools, indoor and outdoor plants, special selections of vegetable starts, trees, and annuals and perennials. Before planting, Bautner recommends yard planning and organization and then beginning yard cleanup a piece at a time.
Making sure seasonal gardening tools and equipment are in good working condition is one of the first steps to insure a more stress-free and productive working environment this spring. Regular lawn mower and tiller maintenance in addition to sharpening and sanitizing tools will go a long way in improving the health of your grass and garden. In order for the grass and garden beds to breathe, clearing leftover fall debris such as leaves and sticks needs to be done as soon as the ground is fairly dry. Cutting back shrubs, perennials and removing any dead growth should be done before the active growing season begins. Also, soil can be tested in the spring to identify whether plant nutrients are deficient and, if so, what amounts are needed for maximum growth. Utah State University Analytical Laboratories provides testing and analysis services for soil gardening and landscaping.
This is the time of year to make decisions about where to plant the perennials and annuals, ground covers, vegetable starts, shrubs and fruit trees.
“Planning is critical, a person needs to decide how they are going to use different areas in the yard,” Bautner said. “For example, where is the play area going to be. Asking questions like, ‘Is this a good place for a vegetable garden?’ and ‘What do I want to plant in the vegetable garden?’”
Bautner suggests planning around the following planting time line for success and an abundant harvest keeping in mind everything doesn’t have to be planted all at once.
Toward the end of March, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, brussels sprouts, peas and beets can be planted and are known for being able to tolerate a light frost, but it is suggested keeping a cover available for a sudden low dip in temperature. In April, cold weather flowers such as pansies, snap dragons, dusty miller and dianthus can be planted. Usually by around May 8, depending on the last frost, it is safe to plant most vegetables and flowers that have been hardened off and are ready for outdoor planting.
“We know that a beautiful garden will make your life better,” Bautner said. “Our goal at Millcreek Gardens is to be a gardening resource for the community. We know that a beautiful garden enhances life making it better.”
Taylor, owner of Paul’s Professional Sprinklers, has been maintaining and repairing home sprinkler systems for 21 years. In a recent conversation, Taylor shared tips that have worked well for him when starting up a home sprinkler system after being winterized.
“I’ve started up thousands of sprinkler systems over the years and this method has worked well for me,” Taylor said. “The method has been reliable in making sure I haven’t overlooked anything.”
Basic steps in starting up a home sprinkler system after winterizing
Check your backflow valves to make sure they are closed and the backflow handles are opened all of the way. Also, go around to each valve box and close any valves or drain valves that were opened in the fall. After making sure everything is closed, turn the water on and listen for the meter to stop turning. Walk around the yard to make sure you don’t see any flooding. Go through each station one by one and look at the valves in the box for any leaks. Walk down the path of the heads to make sure there aren’t any broken pipes and that the heads are in good repair and spraying in the right direction. If a valve pipe or head is broken shut the station off immediately and repair it so it doesn’t flood your yard or worse your basement. Set the sprinkler timer.
Seed starting 101, companion planting and container gardening
According to gardening expert Talbot there are many advantages to starting garden seeds indoors including variety of plants available, providing a longer growing season and cost.
“Starting seeds indoors allows you to grow a wider range of plants to suit your taste,” Talbot said. “Also, some plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and flowers require a longer growing season than we have for our growing zone (zone 6). Cost is a factor as well. Seeds are much less expensive than buying young transplants. Start seeds indoors four to eight weeks before the last frost. You can look online by zip code what the average date for the last frost is. Don’t put your plants out if the temperature is going to drop below 50 degrees.”
Companion planting and trap cropping can be effective ways to increase crop production and to deter pests by pulling the pests away from garden plants, Talbot said. Plants with known positive relationships with each other should be planted close, within a few rows of each other. The scent of herbs such as thyme and lavender will help to repel pests and will attract bees for needed pollination. Nasturtiums are attractive to aphids.
Talbot suggests container gardening for those living in apartments or condominiums.
“Make sure if you’re container gardening the pots you’re using are large enough to prevent the plants from becoming root bound,” Talbot said. “Something that is plastic, terra cotta, has good soil and water drainage should work just fine to grow a number of plants including potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. Wasatch Community Garden’s spring plant sale is May 13 this year. This is a perfect place to find unique and unusual vegetable plant starts whether your container gardening or garden planting.”
There are many seed and gardening resources that can be valuable in preparing for the gardening months ahead:
Wasatch Community Gardens www.wasatchgardens.org/
Millcreek Gardens www.millcreekgardens.com/
Johnny Seeds www.johnnyseeds.com
Paul’s Sprinklers 801-577-9112
Utah State University Gardening Extension www.extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/