Spring is in the air, and we can feel it! If you already ventured outdoors with your hoe and work gloves, we don’t blame you. That beautiful garden won’t cultivate itself. But gardening just before optimal weather is tricky and can lead to more work than necessary. To help you curate a spectacular array of plants and flowers even though it’s still chilly, gardening lover Christie Brinkley recently shared her top tips.
Plant these bulbs now if you forgot to plant bulbs in the fall.
Uh-oh, you didn’t plant any bulbs in the fall! Is there a way to still enjoy spring colors in your garden? While it won’t be exactly the same, Brinkley has a solution.
“I too forgot to plant all my bulbs,” she revealed in an interview with People. “But there are bulbs that can be planted in spring, like lilies and dahlias. They may not give you spring color [they flower in summer], but they’ll give you spring magic.”
And if you still have those bulbs that you missed planting, take your chances and plant them anyway. Bulbs won’t survive out of the ground forever, and they need a home!
Nurture seedlings inside while it’s still chilly.
It might be tempting to plant seedlings now, especially if you’re tired of winter! But placing them outdoors before the conditions are optimal won’t give them a fighting chance.
Instead, start your spring gardening indoors on the windowsill. “My kitchen windows are full of seedlings starting to sprout,” Brinkley says. “I bought biodegradable seed starting trays and organic seed starting soil. I’m getting a head start with a variety of tomatoes because nothing tastes more like summer than tomatoes still warm from the sun, fresh off the vine! I’m in zone 7 in the Hamptons, so I usually wait until Mother’s Day and then I plant away outside.”
Use worm castings and organic soap, not pesticide sprays.
The threat of bugs, deer, and rabbits munching on those delicate flowers and vegetables is enough to make anyone turn to a pesticide spray. Brinkley, however, cautions against it.
“Don’t be intimidated by organic gardening, it’s natural. Be intimidated by the harmful chemicals,” she says.
Instead, try adding nutrients to the soil like worm castings — an organic form of fertilizer produced by earth worms. Not only will these enrich your soil, but they’ll repel aphids, spider mites, and other pests.
As for leaves and flowers, use soap and water. “I keep a close eye on plants that are prone to getting flies, like my rhododendrons,” Brinkley explains. “And the second I see them, I get out my hose with a strong spray handle and I squirt them down. Then I get a bowl of organic dish soap and a sponge and wash the affected leaves.”
How you organize your garden matters.
Certain plants will thrive when they’re placed right next to others — they’re called companion plants. “I plant marigolds and basil around my tomatoes,” says Brinkley, who knows that marigolds protect tomatoes from root-knot nematodes, while basil repels insects.
According to Almanac, other benefits of companion plants include:
- Attracting helpful insects, like pollinating bees.
- Providing shade for extremely hot days. Some smaller plants need the protection of larger ones (like lettuce needing the shade of corn).
- Improving soil fertility. Legumes such as beans and peas will add nitrogen back into the soil.
- Providing natural support, if one plant is tall and the other short.
The bottom line? With a little extra care and planning, you’ll avoid having to do more work later on to keep your garden thriving. Keep Brinkley’s tips in your back pocket! (And check out these extra gardening tricks for preventing tomatoes from splitting and keeping your garden watered while you’re away.)
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.