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By Nancy Hahn

Have sunny days made you impatient to work in your garden? It’s hard to know what to do, when the Rockies home opener reminds us that warm days are here one day and snow back the next. Experts from Young’s Market and Garden Center at 9400 W. 44th Ave., Southwest Gardens at 4114 Harlan St., and Abner’s Garden Center at 12280 W. 44th Ave., agreed that now is the best time for clean-up and soil preparation. But, we don’t even have to wait for planting.

“If you can get a shovel into the ground, you can start preparing the ground for new plants or seeds,” said Tammy, the sister of Cary West, the owner of Southwest Gardens.

Loosening the soil and adding compost are ways to get the garden ready for plants or seeds. Weeds are easy to pull from the wet ground. General cleanup, also, makes your garden look ready for spring. She also pointed out that outdoor cacti and succulents are fine blanketed in snow.

“But, watch out after a big snow. Don’t plow heavy heaps of snow on them when you plow the driveway or the sidewalk. That is a death sentence.”

Cary West has variety after variety of succulents and cacti in the outside garden that have poked through the snow. Even more will be arriving soon.

Ed Becerra sat in a toasty warm Young’s Market with every entry covered with plastic curtains on a very cold day. He suggested that now is a good time for soil preparation. You can rototill in compost and bone meal. Now is a good time to clean up around perennials. Leaves and other debris can be cleaned out of garden beds and be composted. Dead branches of perennials can be removed. Ornamental grasses need to be cut as close to the ground as possible.

“You can start planting on about St. Patrick’s Day, though,” said Becerra. “All your root vegetables – yams, beets, onions, turnips, rutabagas – can get started while the ground is still cold.”

Many plants are fine if they get covered in snow.

“Remember,” Ed says, “Snow is a blanket. Frost, though, can be dangerous, so cover young plants with lightweight fabric.”

Reed Becerra at Abner’s Garden Center, surrounded by a wonderful assortment of houseplants and fun garden art, said loosening the soil and adding fertilizers or natural enrichment is a great beginning. Also, early spring is a great time to spread grass seed in any bare patches and overseed thin areas in your lawn.

“You can even plant some hardy flowers, like pansies and violas,” he said. “Pansies are tough. You can plant them outside as soon as we get them. You can plant a bowl of lettuce that you can bring in if a freeze is coming.”

Reed suggested kits for planting seeds inside, if you just can’t wait. Then, seedlings can be transplanted into the garden later in spring.

Spring cleanup sounds a lot more interesting with pansies, a lettuce bowl, and some hardy vegetables decorating that clean garden.