Spring Gardening Tips

Spring has officially sprung which means planting season has begun. As soon as the ground is workable hardy plants can be planted! Springtime weather can be quite random in the Willamette Valley. Hail, warm afternoons and frost at night are still possibilities well into May, making It too early to have warm season crops (tomatoes, peppers, dahlias, etc.) out unprotected.

If you haven’t done so already, clean up those overwintered beds and containers, and start planning and planting. Soil is the single most important ingredient required for a productive garden. A plant’s roots grow best in a loose soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Any soil type can be improved by adding organic matter such as compost or bark; this is especially true of sandy and clay soils. Organic matter helps sandy soils hold water and nutrients. It can also provide more air space within compacted clay soils, allowing for more void spaces for air and water. Spring is the best time to add organic matter to the garden.

Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials
Spring is a good time to divide summer and fall blooming perennials that have overgrown their locations, as the cool moist weather provides optimal conditions. Spring is also the ideal time to plant hardy trees and shrubs! 

Our soil specialist, Julia, has a favorite: Japanese maples (Acer palmatum cultivars). They are well known for their beautiful autumn color. They also offer four seasons of beauty, as some have strikingly beautiful colors during first leaf emergence in the spring, followed by beautiful yellow-orange leaves and colorful bark in the winter. Some deciduous shrubs can show amazing leaf color as they emerge in the spring, such as the Forest Flame Japanese Andromeda, Fire Chief Arborvitae, and Gold Flame Spirea.

Lawn Care
Many people think that you need to apply lots of water, fertilizer, and pesticides, to have a nice lawn. However, the Willamette Valley’s mild/wet winters and dry summers provide the ideal environment for growing cool season grasses. The most common turf problems are caused by growing it on a thin layer of poor soil that contains little organic matter or beneficial soil life. It is not difficult to grow a healthy carpet of grass without all of the chemical inputs if you work from the ground up.


Important springtime maintenance tasks for lawns:
  • Aerate – The process of aeration allows oxygen, water, and vital nutrients to penetrate the root system of grass. Aerating also reduces thatch build-up; while, preventing compaction to lawn areas.
  • Reduce thatch – Turf problems are often caused by an excessive layer of thatch. Thatch is the tightly intermingled layer of grass stems and roots that form in between the soil surface and the green foliage.
  • Mow – The blades of the grass are the only part of the plant that can photosynthesize, so it’s a good idea to mow slightly on the higher side, leaving at least 2 inches of the lawn. Taller grass is also more drought resistant and will require less irrigation.
  • Feed – Grass needs healthy soil to thrive just like all other plants. One way to cut down on the amount of fertilizer is by recycling grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn to decompose over time.If grass cycling doesn’t work for you, the clippings can be used as a nitrogen source in compost or dropped off at our retail yard, where we accept yard debris. Another way to add nutrients is to top dress with compost. We also carry a full range of fertilizers.