Kachemak Gardener: Now’s the time to prepare for gardening season

Pre-season checklist: clean tools, prepare pots, and gather manure and compost

Now, right now, is the perfect time to gather your gardening supplies.

How about checking the condition of your tools. Did you leave them clean and sharp last fall or are they looking forlorn, in need of tender loving care? If the latter is the fact of the matter, please address it. A good scrubbing with dish soap will do wonders for a start.

Do you have enough potting soil to get you through the growing season? Don’t be caught short when there is a line to procure more. You don’t have time for lines once the growing season gets in full swing.

I also have a new bag of alfalfa meal. I like to mix this with aged manure and compost, then spread it over all of the beds. This year I intend on being very generous. The aged manure does not come from a bag but a pile of horse manure that we collected over last summer and fall. I’m sure you can find a horse standing around somewhere that needs its paddock shoveled. It’s actually rather easy, scooping up the piles and tossing them into a tote. You can do this. And if you can find a horse owner who hasn’t been on top of the shoveling you’ll find plenty of aged-in-place manure.

Are you going to start your own seeds? Do you have supplemental lights? Don’t count on windows; there just isn’t enough light. You won’t be starting any seeds until later this month and, yes, the days will be noticeably longer but not long enough.

Do you have enough containers? I know there are a million options to improvise — pick one or buy some.

I have been saving and grinding egg shells in the blender on a regular basis. I use them for slug control mostly in the strawberries. I have read so many articles that say they are worthless for this use but, hey, I don’t have any slugs in the strawberries. It can’t hurt to try. I grind them as fine as I have patience for. When spreading them, if it’s windy, you need to get very close to your target or they will blow away. Or wait for a calm day. I like to get that particular task done as soon as possible, before the foliage really becomes luxuriant. I cover the ground completely around the plants and, because they are growing in raised beds, I pour some between the soil and the wood. That seems to be where the slugs lay eggs and like to hide out.

There is running to-do list in the garden journal. I’ve been adding to it all winter. Just yesterday I remembered that I want to move/divide the lavender iris (was supposed to be pink) that has gotten huge, a veritable monster. It needs to be attended to, should have been addressed two years ago but it was not on “the list” so there we are.

The East Garden has become a forest. That was the initial intention but I didn’t think it would really happen. The birds love it, which was the point. But, and this is a major but, the perennial border is now hopelessly shaded. I need to completely rethink this. I divided a bleeding heart a couple of years ago and there was so much of it that even after giving most of it away I was still left with a good sized clump that I stuffed into that shaded border and it certainly is loving it. So there you go. And there is some pulmonaria that will love being divided this season and find a nice nook over there. And more primulas. How about the hellebores? If they make it through the winter they should love the shade, which is why I put them there in the first place. There, isn’t this fun?

Let’s not forget the houseplants. The majority of mine are African violets with two epiphytes (holiday cactus).Whatever you have, give them a good shower and feeding, they will appreciate it and reward you with new growth. The days really are getting longer and they will notice. Give them some time now while you have it.

I’ve been looking at our photo albums and noticing how very much the garden has changed in the last 22 years. If you haven’t been keeping a photo record of your garden, do consider it. Go one step further and label them with dates. I know you probably keep your photos on your phone but think about printing them out and putting them in an actual album. It helps, really.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.