Ask the Expert: Spring gardening tips

Fresh fruit.View print quality image
Fresh fruit grows at Hilltop Garden. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Just because snow is falling every other day in Bloomington doesn't mean it's too early to start planning for spring gardening.

Hilltop Garden manager and Indiana University alumna Kaylie Scherer offers her expert tips on prepping for a spring garden perfect for beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables.

Scherer said although there isn't much time spent outdoors gardening in the winter, there is lots of planning and classes that go on behind the scenes to prepare for warmer days.

Kaylie Scherer. View print quality image
Kaylie Scherer, manager at Hilltop Garden, is preparing for spring planting at IU Bloomington. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Gardening classes

Hilltop Garden co-sponsors gardening classes throughout the winter for gardeners at all levels. The organic gardening basics class teaches how to grow a successful garden without using harmful chemicals that are tough on plants.

There are classes on how to use your own fresh herbs, grow a vertical garden for more horizontal space and start from seed to avoid having to buy plants from the store.

If you have extra fruit and veggie scraps, there's no need to throw them into the garbage -- you can learn how to compost that waste for the betterment of your garden.

Gardening tools. View print quality image
Oiled and sharpened gardening tools are ready for use at Hilltop. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Composting

Plant-based food scraps now have a purpose. Save all of your leftover fruits and vegetables and load them into a composting bin. Scherer said sometimes people put the scraps in jars and keep them in the freezer until it's time to add the scraps to the compost pile outside or drop them off at a compost collection site.

 

Hilltop Garden offers programs for the whole family

The Family Gardening Program provides a fun learning environment where families work together in both the classroom and the garden to produce vegetables, herbs and flowers. This free program runs from March through August with a 90-minute class each week. All gardening materials are provided.

The Junior Master Gardener Program engages children in a hands-on gardening experience that helps them develop an appreciation for the environment. This free program provides gardening education for 9- to 13-year-olds and runs from March through August. Students will visit Hilltop once a week for their 90-minute class, where they will tend to their gardening plots and learn new tips.

Creating designs

"Winter is a fun time to kind of envision your garden," Scherer said.

Creating garden blueprints, starting with sketches or even bringing those sketches to life through computer programs can make the first day of spring much easier.

Picturing a garden full of dahlias -- Scherer's personal favorite -- or rows of fresh lettuce? Jot down the ideas and avoid the stress of having to remember the perfect pattern in a couple of months.

"I think it's relaxing and good for mental health," Scherer said about gardening. "It's good to get out in nature, and you get a product at the end."

For more information, visit the Hilltop Garden website to see the services designed to help you improve your garden.