As the snow thaws and the sun begins to peek out from behind the clouds, there’s a good chance that you’re chomping at the bit, ready to dive into your spring gardening tasks.
Spring is one of the most enjoyable times to be in the garden. You can finally release all that pent-up energy from over the summer and you can work outside without being bothered by heat, humidity, or those pesky mosquitoes!
Here are some spring gardening tasks to add to your to-do list so that you can get a great head start toward achieving all of your summer gardening dreams.
Before you do anything else, it’s important to draw up a to-do list that takes into account all of the chores you need to accomplish. Walk around your lawn and garden and make a clear list of everything that needs to be done - and everything that may have happened over the winter.
Are any plants damaged from the snow, ice, or cold? Are there beds that need to be cleaned out or hardscaping elements (like benches or sheds) that need to be replaced? Do you see any new animal burrows or animal-related damages on plants? All of these items should be included on your list.
It’s best to clean and tend to your equipment in the fall, before you store them away, but if you didn't do this, now is the time to give your equipment to a fresher. Clean up wooden handles and sharpen pruners. Grease moving parts with oil. Take a note of what items are missing or need to be replaced.
Now that you’ve freshened up your equipment and made a list of what’s broken or needs tending to, it’s time to make a plan for the garden. Select new plants you’d like to grow, paying special attention to areas of the garden that are lying bare. Order any shrubs, trees, and perennials that you might want to have on hand.
Once your plants are ordered, it’s time to turn next to the lawn. If you haven’t already, service your mower and leaf blower. You may be able to sharpen your mower blades yourself, but if this is outside your scope of expertise, send them off to be serviced. Refill the mower with oil, lubricate moving parts, and install new spark plugs.
Then, look at the lawn for areas that need to be reseeded or aerated before your first mowing.
Early spring is often the best time to prune many kinds of woody plants. You can remove any branches that are dead, damaged, or diseased. Thin back summer-blooming shrubs like hydrangea and roses and prune any plants damaged from the cold after they’ve started growing again. Most trees and shrubs can be pruned after flowering.
Whether you’re thinking about building a new planting bed or just want to maintain the ones you have, it’s important to prepare the soil so your plants have everything they need during the growing season. Add structural amendments like compost and clear the planting area, removing weeds and debris.
Spring is also the best time to plant new bare roots and shrubs. Some options include roses, fruit trees, daylilies, and hostas. All of these are best transplanted on a cool, cloudy, windless day.
You can also transplant your container plants. You might want to sow early spring crops such as sweet peas, calendula, lettuce, spinach, and parsley, too.
While you’re at it, you can also divide perennials that are large enough to split or move any evergreen shrubs that need a new home.
Take the time to do a thorough work-up on your garden soil, ideally by conducting a soil test. These can be purchased online or completed by your local cooperative extension. You will then want to apply a fertilizer that addresses any deficits your soil might have. An organic fertilizer like compost tends to be a good, balanced option for most plantings, while high-acid fertilizers like pine needle mulch work well around shrubs like azaleas and blueberries.
Composting is a great way to clean up all that winter garden debris and to produce fertilizer for your future plants. If you don’t already have a compost pile brewing, you will want to start one up this spring.
You can add all kinds of “brown” ingredients, like those dried leaves and bits of straw you raked up from last year, along with “green” ones like weeds and grass clippings. A good mixture of the two will lend itself nicely to an effective compost system.
Take the time to clean out other fixtures of your garden and landscape, such as bird feeders, birdbaths, and water fountains. You can disinfect these with a weak mixture of ¼ cup bleach and two gallons of warm water. Rinse and dry before using.
Mulch offers so many benefits to the home gardener - it can prevent weeds, give your beds a tidy look, and help retain moisture. It can also help to regulate soil temperature. Use an organic mulch, like wood chips or straw, if you want to return additional nutrients to the soil.
Working on your hardscaping features before the soil is warm enough to plant into is a great way to make use of your time in the early spring. Repair damaged retaining walls or stepping stones, clean out gutters, and fix any raised beds. These tasks will be far easier to accomplish when there aren’t any plants in the way.
Now is also an excellent time to install any staking, trellises, or other support systems you might need once your plants appear. That way, you won’t have to worry about damaging them later on.
...and last but not least, don’t forget that it can still get a bit chilly from time to time in the spring. Because of this, you’ll want to be on the lookout for potentially freezing temperatures that could harm your tender transplants, should they arise unexpectedly. If you live somewhere where late frosts and freezes are a possibility, have some covers on hand to protect buds and foliage.
You don’t need to invest in expensive row covers or cloches - instead, just have some old towels and sheets on hand that you can use to cover up your plants when the weather forecast looks gloomy.
That way, you can stay on top of all of your spring gardening tasks - and get more done without having to worry about the cold!