Last year I created a month-by-month gardening calendar for myself, because of the amount of work I wanted to accomplish. We also had an early spring, so that gave me ample opportunity to do some things early. I anticipate another early spring this year.
Please keep in mind two things: these dates are for the Twin Cities of Minnesota–USDA hardiness zone 4. If you live south or north of there, adjust by a week or more. Every spring is different, so I may have to adjust these dates depending on many factors including snow depth, temperature, and long-range forecast.
Now is a great time to prune shrubs. I pruned my currant, viburnum and serviceberry shrubs yesterday. It’s easy to see the shape of the branches when they don’t have leaves, and the plant is dormant right now anyway.
Now is also a great time to think about whether you want to start seeds indoors. Some will need to be started around the end of this month, including celery, onion, lettuce, and brassicas like cabbage and broccoli. I plan to start lettuce the weekend of 2/25. Here’s a great guide from the University of MN outlining when to start seed and when to plant outdoors. Go to your favorite garden store and pick up seeds, seed-starting soil, etc.
The first half of March, I get the hoop house in place on my tank. In the middle of the month (depending on the weather) I’ll transplant lettuce seedlings into this protected spot and also sow some lettuce seed. We can still get snow into April, so this cover protects the tiny seedlings from heavy, crushing snow.
I’ll also finish up any planning, making lists about which new perennials I’m going to invest in, how many I need, and where I’m going to buy them. My goal this year is to visit at least one of the local nurseries that specialize in native plants, such as Prairie Restorations.
The second half of March, things really start to happen. Last year I harvested chives and parsley before March 31! Chives are a perennial; parsley is a self-seeding biennial. We have enough parsley going in various places that we can reliably find some every year.
More seeds to start indoors during the second half of March: peppers, tomatoes, okra, and eggplant.
I plant my snow peas the first half of April. I soak the seed for 24-48 hours (change the water every 24 hours) to speed germination. You can see some of them growing their first root in this picture from last year:
If we have a warm, early spring, you can also start looking for wildflowers in early April. Last year my bloodroot was blooming on April 13!
Mid-April through the end of May is the most intense time for gardening in Minnesota. I set aside several hours each weekend during this time. Most of this list depends on frost being out of the ground, so make sure your soil is workable before you start. Most years, you can depend on this by the end of April.
Amend your garden soil with whatever yearly amendments you usually add. I will be adding compost from my bin as well as blood meal, a great organic source of nitrogen, to my primary and community vegetable gardens.
Place your soaker hoses or whatever watering system you like.
Plant onions, radishes, more lettuce, any brassica family vegetable, hardy herbs, carrots, beets and other cool season crops that you plan to grow this year.
Divide and transplant any hardy perennials that are overgrown. Examples include hosta, rhubarb, wild columbine, comfrey.
If you grow hops, now is a good time to put up support for the vines, which will really start to take off. I use twine.
Rain barrels, outside furniture and decor can all be brought out now. Fill up pots with potting soil so they’re ready to plant. Some hardy annual flowers can easily be set out now, too, such as violas.
Last year I harvested both rhubarb and lettuce in early May!
The weather should be nice enough now to remove the hoop house from lettuce. I always keep it put together for a few more weeks though in case I need to protect some tomatoes or peppers from a late frost.
You can *cautiously* start to plant out your warm season vegetables and herbs depending on: the long-range forecast, if you’re no farther north than the Twin Cities, and the microclimate of your garden area. You can *definitely* plant things like potatoes, all herbs except basil (unless you can bring it in at night), and all perennial flowers and shrubs.
With an eye on the long-term forecast, you can now safely plant the rest of your garden: tomato and pepper seedlings, bush and vine beans, cucumber (seeds or seedlings), pumpkins and squash, basil. Take a look at the nighttime low temperatures: are they generally at or above 50 for the entire long-range forecast? If so, you’re good to go.
I usually put down straw mulch at this time too, but that can also wait until early June.
When June arrives, harvest season gets into full swing starting with strawberries and radishes.
I hope you find this calendar helpful! I will be adding more specific dates for myself because I will also have a very large project to coordinate at Sabathani–more on that VERY soon.