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April showers AND March garden prep bring May flowers and crops!


By Sydney Murray, Sustainability Office

With spring just around the corner, warmer temperatures, longer daylight and showery weather, the three main components that make for an optimal growing season are also on their way! For many seasoned gardeners, the beginning of the growing season brings excitement and joy as plans are made for what, how and where crops will be grown. For others newer to gardening or who may not consider themselves to have a “green thumb,” starting a spring garden could seem daunting or confusing.

Whether you are new to the gardening game or looking to get started for the first time, we are happy to share some tips to get you started on the right foot in planning and preparing for your spring garden! Our garden program coordinator Gabrielle James outlined a chronological list of garden prep first steps. Even implementing one or two of these steps will add to your garden’s success. 

  • Identify your garden space – Depending on your garden goals, this space can look like planter boxes in window sills or on a balcony, a garden plot in your backyard or even in a nearby community garden. 
  •  Make your garden plan – Consider the context of your space and what amenities you have available. How big is your space? Does it get a lot of sun or shade? What kind of soil do you have? Once you have thought through these factors, then you’ll have a better idea of what kinds of plants your space can support.
  • Pick out what you’d like to plant – Think realistically about what plants you will likely use or eat and what you won’t. It can certainly be fun to grow new things “just because,” but if you know you don’t care for cucumbers, it’s probably best you don’t grow them unless you have someone else to share them with! Additionally, you should make a plan for excess produce such as canning or pickling what you won’t eat right away or having a plan to donate it. Not only should you consider what you like to eat or use, but also how much each crop will cost and how long each crop can be stored before going bad. 
  • Map out your garden space – If you can, it’s always good to keep a crop rotation in mind. Crop rotation is when you switch where you plant different crops cyclically so that soil does not become depleted of nutrients year after year. You should also consider what plants grow well near each other. There are lots of online resources and books to help with this step.
  • Make a timeline – When are you going to plant each crop? Tender crops like tomatoes and melons are typically good to plant after the last spring frost, which is usually around Mother’s Day each year. Hardier crops like greens, carrots and other root vegetables that can withstand cooler temperatures and harsher weather can often be planted sooner. Wasatch Community Gardens, a local nonprofit organization, has a planting calendar for the Wasatch Front region to help you think through your timeline. 
  • Source your crops – Are you going to start your garden from seeds or with starts? Starts are plants purchased that are already several weeks old. Hardier crops are easier to grow from seed than tender crops, so you might consider this when deciding what or if you would like to grow anything from starts. Whichever path you take, try sourcing from local growers. The more local your crops are, the better adapted to our climate they will be. 

“There are so many ways to garden,” James mentioned. “I always encourage folks to come visit the Edible Campus Gardens (ECGs) on campus where we teach different tasks and welcome all questions.” The ECGs have plenty of volunteer opportunities for U students, faculty and staff to learn about gardening through experiential education. You can find more information on our Instagram account regarding shift schedules.

The Red Butte Garden is another great on-campus resource, offering fun and engaging nature-based educational activities for kids, adults and families. Visit their website to learn about upcoming workshops, and check out their gardening resources. Also consider taking a Home and Garden class with the U’s Continuing Education to learn additional gardening methods and practices.

Lastly, local plant sales and seed swaps are abundant in and around Salt Lake City. Some places to look include local greenhouses, home improvement stores, community gardens, and public libraries. For an on-campus seed and plant resource, be sure to check out the ECGs seed libraries (second location coming this spring 2024)! If you are interested in getting your hands in the soil on campus, visit our website or sign up for our newsletter to learn more, or contact us at if you have specific questions.