Getting Ready for Spring!
Working in a spring garden.

Ah, spring is in the air! Or is it? With the temperatures on the rise and the spring flowers starting to poke through the ground, it’s hard to remember that it’s still February, and as most of you know, Indiana weather is fickle at best. It is tempting to dig out the gardening tools and get to work in the garden. But is it safe to do so?

Don’t be fooled!

Regardless of what the groundhog says, February and March are still wintery months in the central Indiana garden. Although most of Indiana has traditionally been considered Zone 5 on the Plant Hardiness Zone map, the USDA updated the map in 2023 and Howard County is now listed as Zone 6a.  What does that mean? The map tells gardeners what plants are likely to survive winter temperatures in their area based on recent history. It also helps vendors of landscape plants to communicate to purchasers the range of zones for which particular plants are suited. In Zone 6a, the last frost date is considered to be May 1st and the first frost date is considered to be November 1st. Does that mean those dates are etched in stone? No, but it is an average from the last 20 years, and chances are there is still a lot of winter weather left before its safe to plant.

So what CAN we do now?

Although we have a way to go before it is safe to begin planting most flowers and vegetables in central Indiana, there are many things you can do to get ready now.

  1. Plan your garden and any beds– For those of you who love to get down and dirty, this may seem like a boring part of the process. But it is essential! Draw out new flower beds and research the flowers or plants you want to put in them. Do you need shade plants or full sun?  If you know what plants you want, what is their growing season? What vegetables do you want to grow in your garden and how much do you hope to harvest? Answer these questions now so that you are ready to go when the weather breaks.
  2. Gather your seed starting equipment– If you plan to start your seeds indoors, you will need a designated place to put them. You may also need grow lights and heat mats to stimulate growth. Don’t forget your growing medium and your trays or pots! Having all this ready prevents a rush at the last minute.
  3. Start your first seeds inside– Not all seeds will need to be started this early, but things like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, onions, parsley, tomatoes and peppers will give you a longer and more productive harvest if started now. Most perennial flowers should also be started by the end of the month, since heir seeds tend to have a longer germination period.
  4. Sharpen your tools and replace broken ones– Give your tools a good cleaning and sharpen shears so they are ready to go.
  5. Plan a compost pile– If you are new to composting, it’s not hard, but does require some planning. And starting one now will give you a place to put all your garden trimmings, leaves and twigs when it’s time to clean out your beds. Watch for local classes to learn more about composting.

Warmer weather gives many people the urge to get started in the garden early. But waiting until the risk of frost has passed will save you money and time later on, and will give you a beautiful garden the rest of the year!

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