Spring is a sign that home improvement projects need to be tackled, but many of us don't want to do the regular spring chores that confine us to the indoors. As the cold days start to wind down, the smell of spring in the air entices us to spend more time outdoors. Take advantage of the good weather and begin to prepare the garden for the growing season.
Clean Your Tools
Before tackling your garden or landscape, it is important to clean and organize your garden tools and supplies. Cleaning your tools will prevent any plant pathogens from transferring to grasses and flowers, and you can determine if any tools need to be replaced. Scrub off any rust and lightly rub on vegetable or mineral oil after the tools have been cleaned to prevent rust from forming again. Clean and check mower blades, hedge trimmers, and weed whackers. Check to see if blades need to be sharpened or replaced. You can take them to a local gardening or home improvement store to get the blades sharpened.
Remove Dead Debris
Walk around your garden or yard to check if plants, soil, trees, and shrubs have been damaged by the winter weather. Remove anything that is dead such as leaves, thatch, branches, and other winter debris. Removing dead leaves will reduce plant infections and allow early blooming flowers to be healthy. Raking up thatch will allow nutrients and water to reach the roots of your lawn.
Treat Your Lawn
After raking up thatch or dead grass from your lawn check to see if it needs to be mowed. If it does, set the lawn mower on the highest setting and trim the top off. After raking and mowing, you will notice if there are bare patches. If there are bare patches, then it is best to turn the soil and re-seed. Before doing this make sure the soil is dry. Mix a shovel of soil with a couple of scoops of grass seed and spread in the patch you are fixing. Rake until leveled and keep watering until seeds germinate. Then cover the seeds with hay or straw to prevent birds from feeding on the seeds. It is a good idea to fertilize newly seeded grass using a high phosphorous fertilizer to enhance the root to grow.
Prune and Trim
Depending on the climate in your area, it is a good idea to start pruning down roses, shrubs, and trees before they blossom. Trim the dead limbs, branches, or anything infected with plant disease. Since shrubs are dormant, this is the best time to shape them, which will make them easier to maintain for the rest of spring and summer. By opening up the entire shrub, you will allow better light and air circulation to it, making the shrub healthier. Do not prune any roses, shrubs, or trees if they have begun to bud. You run a risk of infections and trimming off developing buds.
Transplant If Necessary
If you need to transplant your trees, shrubs or beds, this is the best time, while they are dormant. When preparing to transplant plants, dig them out with caution, and the roots should be kept damp at all times. When transplanting anything make sure to work compost into the topsoil, or simply apply mulch.
Mulch Flowerbeds and Planters
Mulching will conserve moisture and reduce the time needed for weeding and watering. Take care to keep the mulch from having contact with stems or trunks in order to avoid fungal infections. Mulching early will not disturb bulbs when they emerge.
Compost is your best friend when preparing your garden for the growing season. Composting is an excellent practice to break down disease-free vegetation because it produces an organic supplement for your garden. Compost is generally made of garbage like coffee grounds, banana peels, citrus rinds, potato skins and apple cores. These materials provide the necessary nutrients in an organic form, which are slowly released to plants throughout the season. (To get started on composting and mulching, visit our Fertilizer, Compost and Soil section.)
Get Rid of Weeds
Now is the time to start weeding and edging your beds. By removing weeds now, you will prevent some new growth from occurring and save yourself countless hours of weeding in the summer heat. Edging around your garden beds and lawn also slows weeds' progress and gives your landscape a neat, professional appearance.
Spray Insecticides and Oils
Early spring is a good time to spray fungicides, insecticides, dormant oils, and horticultural oils. There are organic and non-organic fungicides that work well in killing off wintering over fungus spores without harming beneficial insects like ladybugs. Throw away any expired and unused garden chemicals; these will only take up space and cause a health hazard in your storage area.
Clean Water Features
If you have any ponds or fountains, start washing them down and remove any winter debris. Ponds and fountains need to be clean to prevent parasites, insects, and algae from settling in. Check sprinklers and drip lines for any leaks or cracks caused by the winter weather.
Once your yard and garden are in tip-top shape, take time to plan any new additions to your landscaping this season. Schedule the rest of your gardening tasks before summer comes so your garden or yard will be full of life and color. (For more on planning your garden, visit our Gardening and Outdoor section.)