Preparing For Spring Garden

In this undated photo provided by the Web site and verified by an Associated Press reporter present at the subject's arraignment, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is shown.
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Having a beautiful garden takes more than a green thumb. It also requires some planning and as winter lingers, this is the perfect time to do it.

Garden home designer P. Allen Smith visited The Saturday Early Show to explain how to organize and prepare for spring.

Smith says gardeners itching to get back out side and start digging in the dirt will benefit from doing a bit of planning right now. Smith has four suggestions for things you can do to prepare.

Keep a Journal

Smith published a book a couple of years ago called "P. Allen Smith's Garden Home." He now has an accompaniment to that book: "P. Allen Smith's Garden Home Journal." The journal has blank pages for notes, gridded pages for scale drawings and plans, and pockets to hold magazine clippings, seed packets or paint chips.

In addition to serving as a place to design and dream, the journal has a very practical use. Smith says you should keep a record throughout the growing season of what plants you have and how they perform. Are they vibrant, skimpy, hungry for more light? When deciding what to plant this year, you can refer to your garden's past success and failures.

Also, Smith suggests stashing away paint chips from your house or garden containers, fabric swatches from any cushions you may have on your patio and photos of your yard. All of these things will prove invaluable when you visit a garden store and ask an employee or designer for advice.

Stock Your Potting Shed

Garden supplies don't usually go on sale, but you should take the time to stock up now, says Smith. Once spring hits, the garden centers are packed with eager customers. You may face long lines or sold-out items, just when you want to working outside. Early in the season you don't want to waste a nice day stuck in a garden center.

The following are the essential items Smith believes everyone should have in their garage/tool shed/potting shed.

  • Twine: Buy the biodegradable "jute" twine, which will not cut into your plants.
  • Fertilizers: Fertilizers don't "go bad," so it's fine if you have some leftover from last year.
  • Potting soil: You do need to fill container with new potting soil each spring.
  • Saucers: Saucers for pots are always useful.
  • Root stimulator: Smith says this is particularly helpful when plants are beginning their growth season.
  • Super phosphate: This product spurs plant growth.

When buying fertilizer and soil, look for varieties that are specifically blended for the way you are going to use them. For instance, you don't want to use soil that's intended for flowerbeds in a container, or fertilizer intended for shrubs on bulbs.

Prepare to Prune
Of course you'll want all of your tools to be in good condition for the spring. Smith focused on pruning tools because it's almost time to prune roses.

This is the time to prune all of the dead wood off of your rose bushes, he explained. They are almost ready to leave their dormant period and begin growing new wood so they can then develop blooms and flowers.

There are two types of pruners. One looks like an anvil, the other like big scissors. Smith prefers the pruner that looks like scissors because it will give you a clean cut on your bushes without crushing the stems.

Your pruning tools must be sharp in order to make clean cuts. You can have your tools sharpened, but you can also sharpen them yourself using a sharpening stone purchased at a garden store. Smith prefers to use long rectangular stones instead of the smaller round stones, because he feels they are safer.

If you need to buy new pruning tools this year, look for tools that are durable, colorful (so you can find them easily when left out in the grass), and comfortable. Smith suggests a new ergonomic pair of pruners. These are good not only for folks who are getting a little older and find themselves in pain after gardening, but for anyone who has a lot of pruning to do.

Get Started
If you plan to plant seeds in the spring, you need to get on the ball and order them ASAP. Order only from a reputable company. If you're going to spend money on seeds, you want to be sure you get what you order and have a guarantee that the plants will grow and thrive. Smith's favorite source for vegetable seeds is Johnny's (from Maine). Smith says he also loves ordering from Rene's Garden (from California), which specializes in old-fashioned flowers.

If you begin planning for the spring and find that you simply can't wait to see some green in your garden, you can plant violas now. These hardy little plants can handle temperatures below freezing.

As we edge closer to spring and experience some warm days, your daffodil bulbs may begin to shoot. Inevitably, these warm days will be followed by some cold ones - but don't worry about your plants. Allen says that these early-spring flowers are created to weather some cold days and will continue to grow and eventually bloom.