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Extension is expanding its online education and resources to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.

Keep calm and garden

March 19, 2020

Even without social distancing, Minnesota gardeners get a little stir crazy this time of year. We are teased by 60 degree days, warm sun and snowmelt. We're itching to rake our grass and clean up garden beds. Spring ahead daylight savings time means it's still light out after the workday (translation: more time in the garden).

But Minnesota gardeners also know that it's safer to hold off on planting and raking until temperatures are steady and lawns dry out. Planting into cold wet soil can result in poor seed germination, and raking spongy lawns can shred grass plants. And then there is always the chance of a late frost that can nip newly emerged plants or tender annuals set out too early.

During this "watch-and-wait" time of the year, we can still do a few things that get our hands dirty and also some solid planning for the coming year. 

Lined notebook with drawing of a garden plan.

Create a garden plan

A garden plan can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. This time of the season is a good time to measure your garden and sketch it on graph paper. Then lay out your planting for the coming season. Use colored stick notes labeled with plant names and cut to the plant's mature size so you can move them around. Be sure to leave space around plants for good air circulation, light and access. 

Some math formulas that are helpful when measuring an area:

  • Area of a rectangle = length x width
  • Area of a triangle = base x height / 2
  • Area of a circle = 3.14 x radius 2

Think about succession planting where you plant a new crop as another crop finishes. 

Find more advice about planting vegetables. 

Start seeds indoors for your garden outdoors

Several different leafy vegetables and herbs growing in a container.
  • Mid-March is a good time to start seeds indoors that need to grow for about 8 weeks before they can be planted outside. 
  • Minnesota gardens are typically planted between May 10 and May 31 depending on where you are in the state. By then, we are usually past our average last frost date and risk of any cold damage.
  • Seeds can still be ordered online. Refer to the seed packet for timing. 

See Starting seeds indoors.

Select your favorites and plant for pollinators.

Choose plants that you really love eating, growing, smelling and tasting. Remember to plant for our all-important pollinators, birds, butterflies and other wildlife you want to attract. 

See Flowers for special uses.

Re-think your lawn space

Interested in a bee lawn? Minnesotans are establishing more and more flower-full plantings to help bees and other pollinators.

Consider planting a bee lawn this year in your yard to provide healthy habitat and food for bees. Bee lawns are comprised of cool-season lawn grasses like fine fescues or Kentucky bluegrass and low-growing, bee-friendly flowering plants.

Get to know your soil

Our soils are thawing, so consider collecting and submitting a soil sample to the UMN Soil Testing Lab.

Soil is the foundation of every landscape and the more you know about your soil, the better you are at keeping it healthy and your plants healthy. A soil test should be done every 3 to 5 years and any time you plan to make a big change in how you use part of your landscape like changing lawn to garden.  

Living soil, healthy garden

Still time to prune

You can still get outside and prune fruit trees, crabapples, maples, birch and oaks until April 1. 

Pruning trees and shrubs

How to prune apple trees - 3-part video series

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, horticulture

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