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4 Tips For Memorial Day Weekend Gardening In Wisconsin

Preparing the soil is an important first step in kicking off a summer garden.
Preparing the soil is an important first step in kicking off a summer garden.

Memorial Day weekend is here, which means extra time to get out into the garden.

Right now, the only constant about Wisconsin weather is that it’s going to be unpredictable but that doesn’t mean gardening has to be put on hold. Lake Effect gardening contributor Melinda Myers gives her tips and tricks for kicking a summer garden off right.

1. Prepare the soil

LISTEN: Venice Williams On The Importance Of Soil In A Healthy Milwaukee Garden

“Adding compost to your soil, couple inches of compost, whether you buy a certified quality product or make your own, adding it to the top eight to 10 inches of the soil helps improve drainage in clay soil that so many people in southeast Wisconsin deal with. It also helps hold the moisture for those of us who have sandy and rocky soil,” says Myers.

She adds that compost can help keep plants healthier and prevent problems with pests.

2. Harden off plants

Hardening off a plant is the process of slowly introducing a young plant to a new environment. Instead of immediately moving a seedling from the greenhouse into the garden permanently, keep it in a portable container and give them a few hours outside each day for about a week until permanently planting them.

“If you pull them right out of the greenhouse at the garden center or you grew your own under lights, give them about a week to get ready for the outdoors,” she says. “Get them ready for those harsher conditions.”

3. Watch out for any colder weather

It’s Wisconsin, so a few chilly days are never out of the realm of possibility. Plants like tomatoes can struggle when temperatures get down to 40s.

“If you can’t wait [to plant], have something on hand to protect them. I really like row covers and it’s a fabric that lets air, light and water through but traps heat by the plants, and so when I’m putting plants in the garden — and it’s still cool at night, even if it’s not frosty, I’ll cover my tomatoes and peppers and eggplants because then they’re going to get a jumpstart on the season,” she says.

4. Plan for pests

Bunny rabbits and burrowing rodents may look cute, but they can be harsh on gardens. Myers recommends adding a fence.

“A four-foot-high fence tight to the ground, maybe around your vegetable garden. The real key though is keeping the gate secure, that’s usually where those little bunnies find their way in,” she says.

Putting the fence deeper into the soil helps make sure nothing can get underneath the fence. While she doesn’t recommend scare tactics because animals in urban areas are used to noise and people, she does recommend organic repellants. Check the label to make sure the repellant is water resistant and safe to use on plants meant for eating.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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