Dreaming of Spring

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This winter, teasingly warm days have been interspersed with a fair share of chilly winds and gray skies. Those quick warm spells have kept me chomping at the bit for the return of spring. Until that time comes, I stay occupied by dreaming of the endless garden possibilities and making to-do lists for the coming growing season! If you are still in the clutches of winter hibernation and haven’t begun planning for the coming year, here are a few things to keep on your mind as planting time gets closer:

Have you taken soil samples lately? Soil tests should be taken at least every three years, or sooner if you notice your yard or garden are not looking as they should. As long as the ground is workable and the soil is dry (avoid working the soil right after it rains), you can take and send your samples to VT’s Soil Testing Lab, which will analyze and return your results within a few weeks. Knowing what your soil is lacking and how you can amend it will help lay a strong foundation for a successful growing season. You can pick up soil testing kits at the Roanoke Extension office.

Working our way up from the soil, the next thing to think about is the space you have available for growing. Have you built raised beds, been eyeing that sunny patch of lawn, want to try growing in containers, or maybe this is the year you’ll join a community garden? Depending on the amount of space you have, you can begin brainstorming what you want to grow. What do you like to eat? What do you have access to – saved seeds, shared seeds, leftover seeds from last year, do you have access to free or inexpensive plants later in the year? Start with what you have available and build your garden from there. The answer to a lot of these questions will be integral in purchasing and planting decisions.

Another part of what you grow can be decided on solely by aesthetic appeal. Does your garden need more color, height, texture, or points of interest? This is a perfect time to think back on the past year and what elements you might like to incorporate in 2017. Gardens are always open to new inspiration, focal points, plants. The possibilities of garden design are limited only by imagination. They are a way to extend the personality and design of your home and existing landscape.

Do have gardening questions, need garden or yard recommendations and/or guidance for the coming year, or have an insect or plant to identify? Check in with our Extension Master Gardener Help Desk volunteers from 10:00am – 2:00pm Monday to Friday by calling the Roanoke County/Roanoke & Salem Virginia Cooperative Extension office at (540)772-7524 or dropping by our office at the Brambleton Center. -Submitted by Kathleen Reed