By Don Gardner
It has been an interesting winter so far.
Snow flurries in South Bryan County and frozen roadside ditches are thankfully rare, almost as rare as the good crop prices American farmers are seeing.
But good news for farmers with grain and cotton prices up also means the cost of food and clothing will rise. That is all the more reason to start a home garden this year.
And just because it is the dead of winter does not mean there is no gardening to be done. The following are some tips for getting your garden ready to go:
• If has been more than three years since you last had a soil test done, this is the second best time to have it tested. The best time was two months ago. The second best time is now.
If you are in Pembroke, bring the 2-cup sample to the Extension Office. In Richmond Hill, both Tim and Dave’s Nursery and Landmark Nursery have bags on hand.
• Decide what you want to plant and get those seeds ordered! Get them now while the supply is good.
• After the soil test comes back, apply the amendments recommended. Lime or sulfur applied to change soil acidity takes months to take effect, so do not wait for the daffodils to bloom before making those applications.
• Get your seed boxes ready to start growing those tomatoes and peppers indoors and get a jump on the season.
• Inventory your fertilizers, pesticides and other garden chemicals, and legally dispose of those that are past their expiration dates. Check and make sure they are stored properly – for example, liquids on the bottom, granulars and dusts above. Lock them in a metal cabinet please – and not with gasoline and lubricating oils.
• Perform maintenance on your powered garden equipment. Make sure it starts and that the gas has stabilizer in it. Make sure things that should be greased get lubed and those that need sharpening get an edge put on them. Tillers should have their tines cleaned and sprayed with a bleach solution as a sanitation measure to reduce disease-causing agents from being reintroduced into your garden on your tools.
• Hand tools will benefit from a good inspection. Replace broken handles and tighten up the loose ones. Wash off last year’s soil with a brush and then dip the working end of the shovel, garden rake, hoe and other implements in a one part bleach, nine parts water solution for a couple minutes and let them air dry.
For the lawn and landscape, the work is similar.
• Sharpen and balance mower blades and tighten bolts and nuts. Lube as needed, stabilize fuel and give the mower a general cleaning. This is a good time to perform annual maintenance on your other power tools like blowers, line trimmers, edgers, chainsaws and spreaders.
• Lawn chemicals should be inventoried, stored properly, or disposed of if necessary. Check to see if you have enough on hand for the coming season.
There is always something that needs to be done. I hope I have given you at least one excuse to escape cabin fever – or someplace you can retreat to between playoff games.
Gardner is the extension agent for Bryan County and can be reached at email@example.com.