GIMME SHELTER-Spring planting: It's time to get your hands dirty

Q: Is now the time to plan my new garden? What's the best way to get started? What can I plant now?

A: You can definitely get off to an early start, but it can be worrisome. As this "spring" has demonstrated, you never know when another cold snap might hit. Hopefully, spring has sprung and we can start getting our hands dirty! You can plant just about everything now, although it's a little early for a vegetable garden. Exceptions to that are things like broccoli, lettuce, and cauliflower. (Oh, and here's a little tip: if a cold snap does hit, just make sure you tip a bucket over your peppers and tomatoes.)

If you're starting a new flowerbed, it's a good idea to do a soil sample. It takes the guesswork out of deciding what your soil needs. We can do soil samples here at Southern States for about $10. We send it to Virginia Tech to get analyzed. The test determines the pH of the soil, which determines whether you need lime. It also determines the organic level of the soil, which lets you know how much compost, manure, humus, or other organic matter you might need.

It's also important to determine how much sun or shade your bed will get so you can decide what to plant. Right now, phlox is in bloom, as well as iberis (candytuft), forsythia, of course, and flowering almonds with their beautiful pink blooms. Also, pansies are safe to plant now.

If you're going to use fertilizer, I recommend using the Espoma line. They use a lot of organic matter, and you get all the nutrients you need in one bag. Not only is it a good fertilizer, but it's a soil conditioner as well.

Of course, you'll also have to keep an eye on those pesky insects. They seem to know best when spring has sprung.