native plant landscaping
Huron Pines/Courtesy photo

GAYLORD — Spring is in full swing, and for all those green thumbs and newbie gardeners itching to get into the gardening routine, here are seven pieces of advice from professionals who know plants.

Jennifer Muladore, ecologist with Huron Pines, and James DeDecker, Michigan State University Extension educator, both shared tips, tricks and resources for a garden — even with Otsego County’s often sandy soil.

Test the soil

• Both Muladore and DeDecker agreed on how important this step is.

“If you’re not doing soil testing, you’re basically flying blind,” DeDecker said. “You can do things to enhance your soil, generally — the problem is you just don’t know what the status of your soil is.”

Muladore also said the first thing gardeners should do is to have the soil tested to find out the unique needs and characteristics of the soil in a particular area.

“For instance, a lot of the soils in this area are very sandy, which is naturally acidic, and then the pine trees that grow on them contribute more acid when their needles fall,” she said.

To test soil, one option is to bring soil samples in a kit to the MSU Extension office, 800 Livingston Blvd. DeDecker said the different kits range from $12 to $25 depending on what the gardener is looking to test.

Hardiness zones

• When planting, DeDecker said it is best to look at what fits in a certain hardiness zone.

“(In) Northern Michigan, we tend to be anywhere between zones 4 and 6, and that gives you a sense of the length of the growing season and the number of frost-free days in your area,” he said.

DeDecker said this is handy for finding the right crops and…