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You Can Grow It: Preparing for spring planting

Garden Master Jim Duthie shows us how to get a jump start on spring gardening chores before the big rush when spring finally arrives.

BOISE, Idaho — Despite the recent sunny and mild winter days, it's still too soon to get out and work in the garden.

But there are lots of things you can start doing now to get ready for spring when it arrives.

Late February is a good time to get a jump start on some of your spring gardening chores before the big rush when spring finally does arrive.

I've been planning my vegetable garden, and have already bought most of my seeds, some from local garden stores, and others from catalogs and online.

There are a few new things that I'm going to plant this year that I haven't grown before, and I'm excited with the possibilities, like miniature scallop squash. I ate some in a restaurant, and they were so delicious that I decided I needed to grow my own.

In the next few weeks, I'll start some of my seeds indoors so they'll be ready to transplant into the garden once the weather warms up. I'm going to hold off for a few more weeks on most of my vegetables because they grow quickly and I don't want them to get too big before I'm ready to plant them outside.

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But now's a good time to start some of the annual and perennial flowering plants indoors, since they usually take a little longer to get established before they're ready to plant out in the yard - things like marigolds, zinnias, penstemons, and herbs like thyme.

Before planting those seeds, though, you'll want to check your indoor seed starting supplies and make sure they're ready to go, including cleaning seed starting trays and stocking up on peat pots and seed starting soil.

When the weather's nice, take a walk around your yard and check for any winter damage. Are there some broken limbs or branches? If so, remove them. Are there some changes you want to make in your landscape? Make a note of which plants you want to remove or replace, or move to a different spot later.

If your garden hasn't been growing well, it might be your soil. Here in Idaho, soil can differ quite a bit depending on your location.  Consider getting your soil tested by a reputable private lab, or the University of Idaho extension service, to see what nutrients and amendments you may need to add to make the soil more fertile and productive. Most soil tests run about fifty dollars.

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Avoid the spring rush to get your lawnmower serviced. Check it and other equipment to make sure they're working properly, so you'll be ready for that first cutting when the grass starts to grow. Sharpen your chainsaw, clippers and other gardening tools now.

If you just can't stand another day without some color, primroses are already available at area garden centers. They're not expensive, and they do well in the chilly weather of late winter and early spring. They'll give you a quick splash of color when planted in containers on the patio or by the front door, just when you need it most during these last few drab weeks of winter.

And just a weather note, spring officially arrives on March 19. But keep in mind that frost and freezing temperatures will last on through April and into May. On average, the last date of frost for the Treasure Valley is around May 10.

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