Tips from Red Butte Garden – @theU

Tips from Red Butte Garden – @theU

Want to get your hands in the dirt but aren’t sure where or when to start? The gardening experts at Red Butte Garden and Arboretum offer expert tips for garden preparation that you can do this weekend, no matter Utah’s fickle spring weather.

Starting your garden depends not only on the weather, but on what you hope to achieve and how much time you’re willing to spend, says Marita Twiss-Tirault, a longtime horticulturist.

“Don’t overthink it too much,” said Twiss Terault, who is happy to be back in the sunshine, listening to the birds, and having fun with her English student, Dexter, as she begins preparing her gardens. “Just go out and do what you can do when you’re able to do it. Then come back to it when you have more time, and embrace it.”

Here are some great ways to get started:

Get those weeds. Thanks to an alternating warm and rainy winter, “the weeds are going to be really happy,” said Tois Terault. They need early attention, whether you pull them out, put them out pre-emergency, or both.

Prepare your tools. “Make sure your pruning tools are sharpened and oiled, your tomato cages are ready, and any other supplies gathered for spring,” said Kara Hastings, greenhouse manager. “It is important to clean your gardening tools to extend their life and avoid spreading diseases among plants.”

Image credit: Mindy Wilson

Celeste Thulin prunes rose bushes in preparation for spring.

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Pruning roses. It is too late to prune fruit trees, but now is the time to prune roses. “You’re pruning out what died over the winter and determining its structure and shape during the year,” Tois Terault said. “Pruning to a bud that then grows toward the outside of the bush helps maintain an open habit, which reduces disease.”

salary . . . But temper it for the sake of pollinators. Some adult butterflies overwinter in leaf litter. They are just beginning to appear in the garden in mid-March as daytime temperatures remain consistently at 50 degrees or higher. Gardening expert Linsey Nelson suggests leaving some debris undisturbed in your garden for a longer period, perhaps in less visible parts of a shrub or perennial border, until you see the butterflies. Look for the California tortoise first, followed by mourning cloaks.

Add new mulch. But, again, consider ground-dwelling pollinators. “Pay attention to where there may be entrances to bee holes, where bumblebees or other ground-nesting bees are likely to make their homes. You don’t want to trap them forever,” Nelson said. “Once the soil starts to warm, it will In seeing it around you.”

Start preparing the raised beds. “Remove any plants remaining from last season and turn the soil over. Loosening compacted garden beds with a sturdy rake is a great way to prepare for spring. “Add some fresh compost, mix it in, and your beds will be ready,” Hastings said. “Keep in mind annual additions Organic materials (think compost and mulch) are what will bring your soil back to life.”

Woman growing a plant.

Image credit: Peter Kane

Planting cool annuals in the Orangerie garden.

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Start with seeds of vegetables and long-germinating perennials. “If you want to start your own seeds, some common garden plants, such as perennials, peppers, and tomatoes, should be started indoors. Review the last frost date, and plan to start seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost,” Kara Hastings said. The alternative is to buy healthy plants grown by local nurseries (and botanical gardens!) to plant after Mother’s Day,” after northern Utah typically sees its last frost.

Plant annuals and cool-season vegetables. This means pansies, snapdragons, Icelandic poppies, kale, cabbage, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, turnips, arugula, radishes, broccoli, and cauliflower. Check the National Gardening Association’s Garden Planting Calendar for zip code-specific guidance on vegetable gardening.

Check irrigation. “It’s never too early to turn on the irrigation system and start watering, but it’s not too early to check it out, identify any necessary repairs you need to make and then make them so the system is ready when you need it,” Tois-Terault said. As for when to start supplemental watering, Nelson said, “The watering guide on the Slow the Flow website is a good touchstone for people who haven’t been around Utah’s wild spring swings. Most homeowners overwater by 40 to 50 percent; So it’s worth checking local advice on when and how much is right.

Check your hardness zone. The USDA updated its plant hardiness zone map last fall, its first update since 2012, indicating a northward warming trend. Here in Utah, our growing season is longer and our frost seasons are shorter, which can affect the plants you can grow. Utah’s regions vary depending on elevation, but most have changed to accommodate warmer average winter temperatures.

Get inspired, research plants, and learn more at Red Butte Garden. “The best gardening advice is local advice,” Nelson said, whether you turn to neighbors and family, local garden center staff, or Red Butte Garden experts who are ready and willing. Come and gather ideas and inspiration, talk to our staff when you find out they are working, and consider taking a gardening course. Remember that students and staff are admitted to the U for free with a valid UCard and walking here can count towards your Well U credit.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the park Annual spring plants for saleFriday, May 10 (members only) and Saturday, May 11, where you can find native plants, vegetables, perennials, hard-to-find ornamental grasses, and more. Look out for Marita, Lynsey, Kara, and the rest of Red Butte’s experienced gardening staff, who will be eager to answer your questions and help you make the best choices.

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