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How To Know If It's Time To Garden In Wisconsin Weather

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While the soil may not be ready to dig in and start planting, there are a few ways you can prepare for the gardening season ahead.

As the snow melts off the ground and warmer weather starts to arrive in southeast Wisconsin, gardeners everywhere are wanting to get outside and start their work for the year.

But Lake Effect gardening contributor Melinda Myers says patience is the key when it comes to the first nice days in March. She says the best way to know if it’s time to start your garden is by checking the soil.

“Grab a handful of soil, gentle squeeze, if it stays in a mud ball, it is too wet. It’s time to go back. Gently give [the soil] a tap and it breaks into smaller pieces, it’s moist and at the right moisture level to start digging,” Myers explains.

If you’re digging a new garden or an area that hasn’t been dug up before, make sure to call 811 or visit Diggers Hotline to make sure you don’t hit any gas or electric lines.

Just because the soil is too wet to dig doesn’t mean that everything has to wait a few more weeks. Myers says it is a great time to see if any small critters snacked on your plants throughout the winter and prune any plants with any broken or damaged branches.

She also says this is a great time to start growing seeds, so they are ready to be transferred to the garden in April or May.

“I like to start things in pots, like greens, and so when we have some nice days, above freezing, and we had some nice warm days, put the pot out there. Let it get the, you know, little bit of warmth and some sunshine. Back in shelter if the temperatures are going to drop, so you can jumpstart the season that way,” she says.

To hear more from Melinda Myers, check out her free webinar Wednesday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. on how to select plants for a rain garden, hosted by the Milwaukee Public Library.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.
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. She has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening, The Garden Book for Wisconsin and Month-by-Month Gardening in Wisconsin. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments, which air on over 130 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S.
Jack Hurbanis started as the WUWM Digital Intern in January 2020, transitioning to Assistant Digital Producer in July.