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Mother Nature soon will be supplying sun and warmer weather, but green thumbs also need to put in a little preparation to help their gardens grow.

Whether you’re planting vegetables or an array of boldly colored flowers, first check to see if your soil has the nutrients needed for your plants to thrive.

Before you start throwing your plants in the ground, you have to whip your soil into shape.

“The one thing people should do is to get a soil test,” says Charles Anctil of Moffett Garden and Nursery. “That’s more important than anything else.”

He says this should be done as soon as the soil warms up. If the soil is too cold, you won’t get an accurate reading on nitrogen. If you had a soil test done last year, it should be fine for this season.

“It’ll tell them if the pH is sweet or sour,” Anctil says. “If it needs any potassium, phosphorous and if the nitrogen is low.”

If the soil is lacking the proper nutrients, your plants won’t grow as well. That’s when you need to take action, supplying what’s needed yourself.

“There are some products available that are water soluble,” Anctil says. “You spray it on the plants or on the soil depending on the product.”

He says liquid bone meal works a lot faster than dry. It gives soil the nutrients it’s lacking.

It can be used in the spring or fall or when the plants start to leaf out. Liquid bone gives the plant a strong root system.

“Liquid lime raises the pH, and normally it works slowly,” Anctil says. “Apply it early or you can use it as a foliar feed. It feeds through the leaves.”

Other products also may be needed, depending on the type of soil you have.

“We have a lot of clay soil here,” Anctil says. “If you have clay soil, Earth Right helps to open it up so the roots can go down and the plants can breath better.”

After getting your soil into shape, it’s time to start planting. This time of year, some vegetables can go in the ground and withstand the chilly temperatures. Potatoes, broccoli, onions, turnips and radishes are just a few options for those ready to plant.

Also be on the lookout for unwanted critters in the garden.

“As soon as you see insects you can start spraying,” Anctil says. “Be careful when you spray, it may be a problem for the bees. Bees are the good guys.”

Gardening experts say if you suspect something is eating your vegetables, before preparing a plan for attack, first identify the pest. There will be signs to help narrow down a suspect.

Deer may leave tracks in the soil and make clean snips on plants. Rabbits make sharp cuts on plants and may leave pellet droppings. Groundhogs leave large mounds of dirt at the entrance to their burrows, typically eating greens, not woody shrubs. Birds peck holes in fruit or steal it before you even know it’s ripe.

Installing a fence is one of the most effective ways to keep unwanted visitors out of your yard. Chicken wire, hardware cloth or rabbit fencing are the least expensive alternatives for small mammals. A fence that’s at least 4 feet tall will work for most deer situations. Plastic bird netting can be placed over small edible bushes like berries the week or so before they ripen to protect your fruit.

“There’s also a fertilizer you can use called milorganite,” Anctil says. “Universities have tested this and deer don’t like the smell of it.”

Erica Van Buren can be reached at erica.vanburen@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPVanBuren.

This article originally ran on newspressnow.com.

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