Yes, I’m getting antsy to start gardening. This has been a strange winter, but with the pleasant weather we keep getting tempted with, I’m warming up the spading fork and thought I’d organize my tasks so I’m ready. And, I’ll share my list with you so you can get antsy, too!

Cut back ornamental grasses as early as you can. Leaving them standing will delay the onset of new growth and will also make the grass look ragged when it does emerge because it’s impossible to avoid cutting off the tips when you do finally cut it back. I like to let mine fall where they are to provide a nice mulch.

If you need a soil test, wait until the soil temperature is above 50 degrees. Temperatures below this may give you false readings. You can test your own soil with a home test kit or send it to a soil lab for more consistent results. Soils labs will also give you recommendations on what you might need to add.

Be ready to spray dormant oil on fruit trees, shrubs and shade trees. Oil should be sprayed when the temperature is at least forty degrees with no chance for rain or frost for twenty-four hours. Oil can help control aphids, scales and mites. Follow label directions carefully.

Wait until soil has begun to dry out before walking in the garden or working the soil. Take a handful of soil and squeeze. If the ball holds together, wait a few days. If the clump is easy to break apart, the soil is probably ready. Working when too wet compacts the soil and ruins its structure.

Put away the rototiller. Tilling the same spot every year breaks down the soil structure and will make your soil actually worse than if you left it alone. Plant roots are amazing structures that will take care of any soil cultivation that is necessary.

Seed into the cold frame cool season leafy plants such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and other greens.

When it’s finally time to select transplants from a garden center, make your choices carefully. Try to avoid plants that already have blossoms on them. Plants need to put out sturdy roots before using energy to push flowers. Ask if the plants have been hardened off yet so you’ll know if you must do this yourself.

Kate Jerome