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Once the vegetable plot is all built out and you’ve had a few good years with your tomatoes, it’s easy to sow yourself into a gardening rut. Ready to try something different? We asked some of our favorite local horticulturists for preseason inspiration.
Taste The Rainbow
Veggie gardens develop a certain sameness from year to year, says Colette Haskell, urban horticulturist at Nick’s Garden Center and Farm Market. Mix things up by planting different versions of the plants you already love. “I tell the kids to ‘plant a rainbow,’ but it works for all gardeners,” Haskell says. Reach for red-tipped or purple lettuces instead of the more traditional varieties. Seek out Easter bonnet and watermelon radishes and opt for purple and red carrots instead of orange. Plus, nutritionists tell us, the deeper-hued veggies are healthier.
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If you change one thing in your garden routine this spring, add a Hori-Hori knife to your arsenal, says Suzanne Wood, owner of Urban Roots. “We don’t sell a lot of tools, but this is the one thing everyone needs,” Wood says. (Haskell, also a fan, echoes the recommendation.) The serrated knife can pull weeds, trim branches, and plug dirt holes in your containers. For those with cutting gardens, Woods also suggests adding a pair of Chikamasa scissors to your tool kit for precision snipping.
Prioritize & Fertilize
Early-season fertilization is on every gardener’s checklist, but Paulino Gardens manager John Smith recommends making it a monthly task this year. “The nutrients get absorbed by early summer,” Smith says, “so if you’ve noticed your vegetables aren’t performing well, this could be the reason.” Mark your calendar now to make sure you follow through.
Feed The Birds
Instead of simply choosing shrubs for visual appeal, Haskell suggests finding plants that attract birds, bees, and butterflies. “Lilacs are great, but a currant bush will produce berries that the birds just love,” Haskell says. (Rule of thumb: Anything with berries is likely to attract birds.) Haskell is especially enthusiastic about bee-friendly plants—think nectar-producers like sunflowers and wildflowers. As we are learning more about the impact bees have on the global ecosystem, says Haskell, planting bee-friendly plants is a great way to educate kids on the importance of doing your small part to help the planet: “We can show kids, ‘Don’t be afraid of the bees, we need them to live.’”
Stir it Up
You know you’re supposed to compost, so this spring, why not actually give it a try. Rotating composting bins will produce a faster yield and are a bit easier for beginners, according to Smith. Find a sunny spot in the yard and start collecting grass clippings, kitchen scraps (no meat or dairy), and by fall you might be putting the garden to bed with your very own compost. The satisfaction of knowing exactly what’s in your soil is worth the effort, Smith says.