It’s the time of year when gardeners are itching to get outside, but too early to actually start planting. There’s still a lot of things that can be done to prepare your garden for spring…so that you can get out in the yard during the nice days.
Once the snow is melted but before the frost comes out of the ground, it is time to assess winter damage, note hardscape repairs needed, and start a surface clean-up. I want to do these jobs before the bulbs and perennials start to sprout so that I do not trample the new growth. Here are the initial tasks I do in early spring.
Continue reading to see how to get your garden for ready spring.
Pick Up The Garbage
This isn’t a very glamorous task, but you will be surprised what has accumulated over the winter! Walk around with a plastic bag and retrieve all the bits of paper and trash that have blown onto your property over the winter. If you live in a neighborhood like mine, you will also likely need a small spade to pick up after those dog walkers who have neglected to be courteous.
Rake the Grass
Now is the time to rake the lawn to rid it of debris like leaves, twigs, dirt, etc. Use a fan rake for this because you do not want to risk pulling up any grass roots.
I like to lightly strew grass seed around at this point. Then, when it rains (or snows), the seeds are drawn into the soil and are ready to sprout as the ground gets warmer. Of course, some of the seeds will be eaten by birds but there will be enough remaining to rejuvenate your grass.
Trim Back Perennials
I leave most of my perennials and grasses untrimmed in the fall so that they provide winter food and shelter for the birds. This time of year they look very ratty and unkempt.
I go around with my pruning shears and trim them to an inch or two from the ground. Try to avoid any root damage by cutting off the old stems rather than yanking at them. I do the perennials, grasses, and the peonies (except the tree peonies).
Prune Bushes and Trees
Now is the time to remove the old wood from the raspberry bushes and tie up the drooping branches that will produce fruit this summer.
Avoid any severe pruning of the spring bloomers, such as the lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, and pieris. For other bushes and trees, cut off any broken or crossing branches.
Cut back the clematis climbers depending on when they bloom. The spring bloomers get trimmed back to the top sprouting buds, the summer bloomers get trimmed to 2-3 feet from the ground. The fall blooming clematis paniculata (autumn clematis) can be kept in check by cutting the stems to 1 foot from the ground.
Roses can be pruned back now, although I usually only tidy the climbers and retie them to their supports.
Resist touching the hydrangeas. It is too early to remove the old blossoms. This can be done only after all danger of frost is past.
Once all of this is done, I like to take the pruning shears to the hardware store for sharpening once I have finished the early spring clean-up so that they are in good shape for the rest of the year.
Throw a handful of azalea/rhododendron fertilizer, soil acidifier around the azaleas, rhododendrons, pieris, blueberries, and blooming dogwoods. This is only necessary if your soil is not naturally acidic. My soil has a sand base so the nutrients leach out.
Toss a handful of Epsom salts under every rose bush. This replenishes the magnesium in the soil and enhances growth and vigor. I think it helps combat black spot and mildew and is much less expensive than rose fertilizer. It can be purchased in the drug store. I do apply rose fertilizer, but not until late May, when the roses are leafed out.
Add triple-mix or manure on top of the soil around all bushes. Keep it an inch or 2 away from the stems to prevent burning the bark. I don’t ever get around to doing the entire garden so I choose an area that did not get any organic matter added last year.
If you have a compost bin, empty its contents onto the rhubarb patch and the raspberry patch, or any other perennial fruit and vegetables. If I do not have enough, I apply purchased sheep or cattle manure to the raspberries, strawberries and blueberries annually. There is no digging involved with this process. I let the worms and rain draw the new organic matter into the soil.
Make a Repair List
Make a note of those hard structures that need to be repaired, painted, or chucked.
I noticed that my reed fence is the worse for wear and plan to redesign it…you may want to watch for this post later on.
Picket fences (like the one I have in the front yard) can be salvaged with a few new boards.
Check your outdoor lights to see if any are broken and/or need new bulbs.
Some of the “garden art” needs to be adjusted, straightened, or moved. Some of it I will toss because I am tired of it.
Clean the Deck and Outdoor Furniture
Hose the pathways with water, and scrub and rinse the deck.
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Wet the deck first, scrub with a long handled deck brush and rinse very well with the hose. Note: Do not clean your wooden deck with a power washer because the powerful spray will soften the wood and cause more rapid deterioration.
Commercial deck cleaners applied as per instructions also work well.
While the deck is drying, bring the deck furniture out of the garage and clean it with soap and water. Also make note of any repairs…this year I have a plinth to paint and wood preservative to apply to the wooden chairs.
All of these chores will get your garden in order and keep you busy until the weather is warm enough to start planting…and enjoying the spring flowers like this beautiful Magnolia! My aim is to have these completed by the end of March.