Iowa’s seen a lot of unseasonably cold weather and freezes in the past week, so green thumbers who are itching to get into their gardens will have to wait a bit longer. Before digging up the dirt this spring to prepare for planting, gardening expert John Fesh says to do some homework first. He suggests making sure the soil is suitable for what you intend to plant.
“Carrots and beets and horseradish, those types of plants really depend on root expansion to be successful,” Fesh says. “Plants like potatoes, you’re not going to be very happy with the results if you have a real rock-hard-type of soil. You’re just not going to get any tuber development.”
Especially in Iowa, where the weather can make drastic changes quickly, Fesh says it’s important to check the forecast before doing any planting. Otherwise, you may have to do some replanting later. Now may be a good time to test the soil to see if it’s suitable for what you want to plant. He says “trench” planting may be a good option in some areas.
“You can make a deep furrow or even use a long gutter you had once used for your house,” Fesh says. “You can fill that with a loose, easy, mellow soil with a mixture of compost and sand so that the roots can get out and develop.” Fesh, an extension educator, says that won’t work for every crop but it gives you an idea on how the root system needs room to spread out. Ideally, he says we need to see soil temperatures in the mid-50s before digging up the garden to start the process, and that likely won’t come until mid-May.