March is here, and that means warm, sunny days begin to appear amidst the cold, snowy remainders of winter.
The blessedly longer daylight hours we have just gained from Daylight Saving Time puts me in the mood to venture outside and poke around my yard for signs of life. And things aren’t so dormant anymore — branches are budding, and a few early spring stems are unfolding.
This month is perfect to prepare for the influx of warm weather and gardening potential around the corner. I’ve been turning our compost more regularly to help break down the collection of fallen leaves from last year, and we got a fresh batch of mulch from the city of Boulder’s free mulch pile last weekend to spread around our yard. Soon we’ll till and prepare the soil in our raised garden beds for new crops.
But remember, our last day of frost can be as late as May 3, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. So don’t start planting outside just because the dial hit 70 degrees over the weekend.
Instead, you can take all that spring fever and channel the temptation into sprouting seeds, starting a “garden in a box,” or planting an indoor herb garden. Many vegetables take several weeks to germinate and grow hardy enough for the outdoors, so you can get a jump on the growing season now.
There are a handful of great nurseries in and around Boulder to get organic heirloom seeds or plant starters, like Harlequin Gardens, BBB Seed, Boulder Altan Alma Organic Farm, Abbondanza, and Botanical Interests, and many sell their products at local farmers’ markets (beginning April 7).
McGuckin Hardware and Whole Foods also stock good selections, including local seed company Lake Valley.
If the only space you have to tend garden is on your kitchen counter or front porch, check out the Center for Conservation Garden’s box kits, and create pre-planned edible or visual gardens for as little as $25, or more elaborate creations for up to 100 square feet and up to $400.
If you are like me and tend to go buck-wild and plant too much to eat and/or tend, an in-home consultation is only $65, and a professional helps you settle on how much to plant, and where.
There are also several community gardens in Boulder where you can rent a plot for the season and get access to shared tools and equipment on-site. These have the benefit of adding social time to your gardening hours, and visits make great dates and get-togethers. But the plots get reserved quickly, so get on the list or waiting list as soon as possible!
Visit growinggardens.org/english/programs/communitygardens/index.html for details.
As for planting seeds indoors, you can buy entire kits or you can reuse many common household items, such as egg cartons (beware of overwatering, though — they can get moldy) or plastic food containers, to germinate seeds. If there is space on an outside porch or deck, the seedlings can be moved outside once the last chance of frost passes.
Katherine Nettles is the communications coordinator for the CU Environmental Center. Contact her at Katherine.firstname.lastname@example.org, and send her your favorite seed sources or sustainable gardening tips.