For many of us, spring means one thing: the beginning of gardening season! Those of us who love to dig in the dirt are just itching to get started on our spring gardens. And while the ground here in Minnesota may not be ready for planting quite yet, there are several things you can do now to prepare your yard and gardens. Jump-start your garden this spring with this to-do list.
Plan out your gardens
First things first, map out your gardens. Come up with a plan for where you will plant, estimate how much you can plant, and decide what blooms, vegetables, or foliage you want in your gardens this year. Then sit down with a seed catalog or hop online to select and buy the varieties you want to plant.
Next, take inventory of your gardening tools and supplies. Clean and sharpen tools and replace any that can’t be repaired. Write yourself a list of anything you need to purchase, and make sure everything is ready to go for your spring planting.
Also, take a walk through your lawn and gardens, noting any broken or dead branches that need trimming, areas where mulch has thinned, shrubs or other plants that the frost has pushed up, or any other damage. If you have irrigation lines, take a moment to test them for leaks. Lastly, check your paths and walkways for damage and make a plan for repairs.
One of the top priorities for late winter/early spring is weeding. Pull weeds as soon as they start to pop up. They’re easier to pull before they root and when the ground is still cold. You’ll definitely want to catch them before they go to seed and multiply. Get in the habit now of doing a little weeding often to stay on top of them throughout the growing season.
Early spring is a great time to prune shrubs that flower in the mid-summer or fall. It’s best to prune before they put on new growth, and it’s easiest to see damaged or broken limbs before the leaves come out. Prune all dead or diseased branches, as well as any branches that are getting out of hand. Avoid cutting back spring-blooming shrubs like lilacs or azaleas—wait until after they flower to prune them.
Rake up any matted leaves or excessive leaf ground cover to expose the base of plants to sunlight and water. Rake out planting beds and apply an even layer of mulch. Look for pockets of leaves that are caught in your shrubs and remove them.
It’s important to replenish the nutrients in the soil around trees, shrubs, and perennials. Whether you choose to purchase a fertilizer or use your own compost, fresh fertilizer will help your plants grow healthy, lush, and beautiful. You might consider bringing a soil sample to a local extension service office for testing (some nurseries offer this service as well). They can tell you what nutrients your soil is most in need of so you can fertilize them most effectively.
Assess and divide perennials
First, remove dead foliage on your perennials to make way for new growth. If any have popped out of the ground as a result of the freeze-thaw cycle, work them back into the ground, add mulch around them, and water them thoroughly.
Divide overgrown perennials early in the season (unless they are early bloomers—then wait until after they bloom). This gives them plenty of time to root in and produce prolific flowers later in the season. You can begin dividing them as soon as the first stems with leaves begin to emerge.
Edge garden beds
Edging your garden beds creates a clean, attractive border for your gardens. It also helps keep mulch in its place so it doesn’t spill onto your lawn. You can do this by hand with a spade or half-moon edger or by using a power edger
As you’re getting your yard and garden beds ready for planting season, don’t forget about your containers. Remove the top few inches of potting soil from your containers and add fresh compost and soil. Also, check to make sure drainage holes aren’t clogged with roots or other material.
Taking the time to do this prep work will give you a head start on your spring gardens and lead you on the path to a successful garden and bountiful blooms this summer.