Spring Gardening Tips

Mar 30, 2023

Spring is an excellent time of the year to take inventory of the things needed to prepare the garden for the growing season ahead. These chores may include evaluating the hardscape, thoroughly cleaning the yard, tuning-up tools, testing and feeding the soil, pruning shrubs, preparing new beds, fertilizing, and checking irrigation.

Yes, it sounds like a lot, but if these chores are tackled a bit at the time, gardeners may find these activities to be fun, and the rewards will be nothing less than a sensory stimulation of color, smells, touch, sound, and taste in the upcoming months. All these chores can be done while plants are still dormant.

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Evaluate your hardscape issues.
Check fences, level your steppingstones and pathways for damage caused by rain and frost, and repair walls, benches, decks, sheds, trellises, and raised beds.

Do a thorough spring cleanup.
Look up and assess the trees and remove branches from those that overhang structures. Ideally, just before your spring bulbs pop up, trim ornamental grasses and any other annuals that were not removed during the fall. Clean the plant debris from the garden beds, divide last year's perennials, pull weeds, and clean flower beds. Start a compost pile and refresh the mulch once the soil warms up. Additionally, clean up debris from ponds, water fixtures, bird baths, and containers to prevent lingering diseases or insect eggs from the previous year.

Tune-Up Tools
Scrape excess dirt off the digging tool, wash with soapy water, and allow to dry thoroughly—coat metal parts with linseed oil to prevent rust and corrosion. Sharpen pruners, loopers, and shears. Pruners that are clogged with sap can be hard to use. Solvents such as mineral spirits or turpentine can remove sap from tool blades.
If the tools were exposed to diseased plants or pest-infected soil, give them a quick soak in a diluted solution of 2 cups of household bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water, then rinse in plain water or use rubbing alcohol.
Ensure the lawnmower and other power tools are in good condition, and add oil or gas as needed. Clean your garden shed and garage, organize tools and supplies, and discard unnecessary items.

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Test and feed the soil in the garden.
Experts recommend that garden soils be tested every few years to see whether nutrients or organic matter are needed. A good general practice is to top-dress the soil with an inch or two of compost, humus, and manure in early spring, just before bulbs emerge. Sprinkle a slow-release plant food around perennials and shrubs. Earthworms and other garden creatures will do the job of working these organic materials into the soil.

Prune Shrubs
Now is the time to prune trees, roses, hydrangeas, shrubs, and perennials vines. Research best practices, techniques, and timing for each variety and hold off on pruning spring bloomers until after they flower.

Prepare New Beds
Remove surface debris such as leaves or mulch from vegetable beds to help warm the soil. Wait until the soil has dried out sufficiently before tilling to avoid compaction. If the soil crumbles when you try to make a ball, it's time to work on the beds. Add amendments such as aged compost, manure, and trace minerals before planting early crops. Start vegetable and annual seeds indoors for 6-8 weeks before replanting them outside. Make a planting schedule, so seedlings mature at the optimal time for the local region. Succession planting will aid in maximizing the harvest from a raised bed. Summer vegetables can be sown in late spring.

The garden is waking up, thus applying a balanced fertilizer or fish emulsion around trees and shrubs can re-invigorate plants when new growth appears—spread high-acid fertilizer and mulch around acid-loving shrubs like azaleas, camellias, blueberries, or citrus. Begin fertilizing perennials when active growth resumes.

Maintain Irrigation
Check, adjust, and replace any damaged irrigation line—repair hoses and nozzles that may have developed clogs, leaks, or holes.

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By Flo Pucci, Master Gardener
Author - Master Gardener