It’s cold and wintry outside – which means it’s the perfect time to think about sunshine, warmer weather and getting your spring gardening on! (Photo: Shutterstock).

It’s cold and wintry outside – which means it’s the perfect time to think about sunshine, warmer weather and getting your spring gardening on! Here are a few steps you can take in February to prepare for spring gardening.

Check your gardening tools

Pull out all your gardening tools and give them a look-over. Clean everything, look for areas of damage and consider replacing worn-out tools. Pruning shears and loppers can usually use a thorough cleaning and sharpening. Anything with a hinge can benefit from a drop or two of oil. How are your gardening gloves holding out? You really do deserve a new pair without worn-out holes in the fingers – just sayin’!

Think about vegetable seeds

Mail order catalogs may have varieties unavailable at local garden centers, but make sure they’re right for our zone. My personal favorite: pepperoncini. Burpees (burpee.com) and Park Seed (parkseed.com) have a huge selection. Dixondale Farms (dixondale.com) has leeks, shallots and a wide variety of onion sets (choose an intermediate variety).

Seed packs contain valuable information about planting and care:

Sun: the amount of sun needed (Most vegetables need full sun.)

Germination: the amount of time for the seed to sprout after it’s been planted

Time to harvest: the amount of time between planting and harvesting

Depth: how deep to plant the seeds

Spacing: how far apart the seeds should be planted from one another

Thin: If the sprouts are too close together, some will need to be pulled out. Many of us find it painful to pull out a perfectly happy little sprout, but if the plants are too close together you’ll have a lower harvest.

Time to plant: Check the online Colorado Master Gardener. Garden Notes number 720, cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/720.pdf, is a useful vegetable planting calendar and often more accurate than the map on the back of the seeds.

Container: Some vegetables do well in a container. The container number is the number of seeds to sow in a container.  Spread them out around the edges of the container.

Test your soil (when it’s thawed):  Know your soil’s needs before adding to it. Do you need compost? Less nitrogen? A soil test will give you that information and support a healthy garden. Basic testing kits are available at any garden center or big box home store. More information is available at agsci.colostate.edu/soiltestinglab.

Plan for flowers: It’s too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils (plant those in the fall), but it’s a perfect time to consider other ornamentals. Peonies and roses are perennial favorites, but there are so many others that do well in Colorado and come back every year. Check out Plant Select (plantselect.org) to discover beautiful lower water and xeric plants.

Happy gardening!

By Juli Saris, CSU Extension Boulder County. Juli Saris is a Colorado Master Gardener for CSU Extension in Longmont.