It's almost full-on gardening season here in Wisconsin. We've been busy gearing up to do some real hard-core gardening this summer.

This weekend, we dug a new bed in the back yard and populated it with eight bare-root raspberry bushes. Unfortunately, we won't get much benefit from those bushes as they aren't supposed to produce a good sized crop until next summer and fall. We also assembled a potting bench that we'll use to transplant various plants throughout the season. Unfortunately, it was too cold to stain the potting bench today, so we'll have to do that some time this week.

A little over one week ago, we started some seeds indoors. Tomatoes, hot peppers, and delphiniums went into the little peat moss cells. Currently, we have several little tomato plants, as well some hot pepper plants. The delphiniums have yet to sprout, however.

We've also been debating the best way to start a vegetable garden in our backyard. The soil here in Madison has more clay than you might like for gardening, so we've been seriously considering some raised beds. Unfortunately, installing raised beds is much more expensive and complex than simply renting a roto-tiller for a few hours and laying waste to our grassy friends out the back door. However, if we can get past the initial hassle and expense of installing raised beds, the payoff in easier weed control and a longer growing season should be worth it.

We also have a wide variety of native plants to get into the ground this summer. We're trying to decide how much of the turf in the front yard to rip up and replace with natives like big bluestem, purple coneflowers, little bluestem, asters, black-eyed susans and the like. To get those plants successfully installed in our yard is going to mean killing all the turf in one area, letting the weeds grow, and then killing everything again with RoundUp. Only then can we get the native species into the ground. After all that, the best we can hope to see this year is a cover crop included with the seeds. We won't see flowering native plants until next summer.