Can't wait to get back to the garden? Use this handy spring garden guide to get started. Believe it or not, the key is avoid getting too impatient and doing certain jobs too soon.
Early spring jobs: in the yard
Early spring garden jobs: In the flower garden
- Start winter cleanup of the lawn when the grass is no longer sopping wet and planting beds stop being a sea of mud. Rake your lawn to get rid of dead growth, stray leaves, twigs and winter debris and let light and air to the soil level, encouraging the grass to grow.
- Re-seed bare or damaged patches of lawn. Scratch up the soil with a rake first. Mix a shovel of soil with a couple of scoops of grass seed and spread in the patch you're fixing. Rake level and keep well-watered until seeds germinate and the new grass establishes.
- Remove tree guards or burlap winter protection from any young trees or shrubs. Try not to leave tree guards in place over the summer. They keep rabbits and mice from nibbling on tender bark over the winter, but trees don't need them in summer. They don't allow enough air movement around the base of the trunk and that can promote rot of the bark.
- Transplant any existing shrubs you want to move before they begin to leaf out.
- Weeds start growing vigorously early, so when you spot them, go to it. Getting on top of the weeding now means a lot less work later. Weeds are easier to pull out while their roots are still shallow in early spring.
- Apply dormant oil spray to fruit trees, magnolias, crabapples and shrubs such as euonymous to control scale insects and other overwintering pests. Use this organic pest control method when the buds are swelling but the leaves haven't opened yet. Apply when temperatures are between 40 and 70 degrees F (4-21 degrees C).
- Get your lawn mower checked and its blades sharpened if you didn't get the job done in late winter. Sharp blades cut better and leave your lawn grass healthier.
- Don't be in a rush to remove winter mulch or to cut back evergreen plants such as lavender until temperatures are reliably warm.
- Freeze and thaw cycles over the winter may given some of your plants the heave-ho. Replant any perennials that the frost has heaved out of the ground as soon as you can.
- Cut back any remaining dead perennial foliage from last season (trimmings can go into the compost).
- Cut back ornamental grasses to about 10 inches from the ground.
- Remove winter protection of mounded earth from roses. Prune rose bushes before they start to leaf out.
- Resist the urge to start digging in your flower beds too early. You can damage the soil's structure. If you pick up a handful of soil, it should fall apart, not stick together like glue. When it's dry enough, you can start to dig beds and add compost or manure in preparation for planting.
- Grass growth is vigorous in the early spring garden, so edge your flower beds with a sharp trench between them and the grass to keep it in bounds. Repeat this job a couple of times through the season, or installing permanent edging goes a long way towards having a lower maintenance flower garden.
Yvonne Cunnington is an avid gardener and the author of Clueless in the Garden: A Guide for the Horticulturally Helpless (Toronto: Key Porter, 2003).
Visit her website http://www.flower-gardening-made-easy.com for more flower gardening tips.