April 14 is National Gardening Day. That means it is time to start thinking about ways to get your garden ready with these spring garden tips. Whether you are interested in vegetable gardening or just love to grow flowers, these tips will be helpful
April is a special month for gardeners. Not only does it have its own National Day on April 14, but the whole month of April is designated as National Gardening month. And no wonder, the warm but not too hot temperatures make it the ideal time to get some gardening tasks taken care of!
Many areas of the country are still under a blanket of snow, but it won’t be long before most of us will be doing things to get our garden ready for spring. Here in NC, depending on how late our winter lasts, that time is almost here!
Even though most areas of the country are slowly warming, it’s also true that most plants are still dormant. (I am delighted to see my early bulbs peeking through though. It won’t be long before my daffodils, hyacinths and tulips will be blooming.)
Even though most plants are still dormant, there are a lot of ways that you can plan ahead and prepare your garden for spring.
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These spring garden tips will help you get ready for the warm weather.
I have included a list of my top list of 25 things that you can do to ensure that your garden will be ready when the plants start to grow. Lets start with a good look around the garden!
Give the Garden a General Inspection
Most garden beds suffer from the heavy rains of winter and need some TLC. Check my tips for preparing spring flower beds here.
Inspecting the garden is probably the most important step and you should not skip it. Most of us are eager to get out and actually do something in the garden after a long winter, but taking stock of what has happened over the winter is so important.
It also gives us a to do list and makes sure that the garden gets started on the right foot.
Check your Fences and trellises. Have they started to break or splinter from the moisture? Now is the time to mend them.
Look over your Raised Beds. If you use raised garden beds, it is important to check the sides. Are they bowing? Are the joints coming apart? If so, fix them now.
There is no point in planting in something that will start coming apart mid season. Raised garden beds don’t have to just be wood, either. See how I recycled recently to make a cement blocks raised garden bed.
Do you have Winter weeds? No matter how well you weeded before the winter set in, there will still likely be weeds out there. Take stock.
Will you need a tiller to get them up, or will a hoe do? That means you may need to borrow or rent a machine. Some beds can do with just a light till and for others you may will need to borrow or rent a rototiller.
This patch of irises is full of a weed that propagates with under ground runners. I’ll need to dig up the whole patch and till this area of the garden bed or the whole bed will be full of these weeds this summer!
Check over your Garden Furniture. Now is the time to inspect your outdoor furniture too. Will anything need replacing?
If you notice it now, you can be on the lookout for upcoming sales, rather than waiting till mid season when prices are the highest.
Check out your Potting Shed
Look over your potting area. Do you have a potting table? If not, drag out a sturdy table from the attic and put it to use. Check over your pots.
Sterilize those pots that need it. Clean your clay pots if you did not do it in the fall. Get potting soil, fertilizers (if you use them) and other soil additives now so that they will be on hand when you need them.
Inspect your lawn edging.
Now is a good time to get the edges of your garden beds ready. It will make sure that the weeds won’t start growing into the beds once the lawn starts growing and will save you one job later in the spring, when all you will really want to do is to get into the bed and dig.
Last summer, I cut back one of my large garden beds and just laid a row of bricks around the outside of it to keep the weeds out. This spring, I’ll dig the trench and lay the bricks properly to give this bed a nice edge.
Working on this project now will be easier than waiting until the hot days of summer hit!
Check Bird Feeders and Bird baths
Give your bird bath a good cleaning. Clean out bird houses and put in fresh feed and bedding for your feathered friends.
Give planters and pots a good inspection in spring
Not all gardening in done in soil in the ground. An important tip to get your garden ready for spring is to check over your containers.
Take stock of your patio planters. Dig out the weeds, inspect them for cracks, and refresh the soil for new plantings.
It’s a good idea to replenish the soil in planters each spring. Plants will deplete the soil of nutrients, so adding fresh soil will give your potted plants a good start.
Spring Garden Tips for Plants
We have just started on these spring garden tips. Now on to the meat of the garden – plants, trees, shrubs and more. It’s not enough to just inspect the plants to see what is what. It’s important to give them some TLC as well.
Plant inspection in early spring
Winter is hard on a garden. The soil is wet and compacted and the harsh weather takes its toll on the plants. Time to see what needs some work.
Inspect all the plants, shrubs and trees to see what has been damaged and make notes of jobs to do to repair this.
Clean up Perennials
Once the soil is sufficiently dry, it’s time to start the clean up of your perennial plants. These plants come back year after year but often need to be tended to in the spring. What you will need to do depends on the type of perennial in question.
Prune the crowns For most perennials, if you did not prune your perennials in the fall, do so now. Cut back the old and dead foliage close to the top of the crown and mulch around it but not too close to the crown.
This foxglove plant was grown from seed last year and has made a nice mound. It was evergreen all winter but the cold has damages a lot of the outer leaves. A good clean up is all it needs.
Discard dead perennials. Remove any dead plants and add them to the compost pile. If they really are dead, they won’t grow back. Signs of a dead perennial is a rotten root ball or crown. There should be some sign of life in the center of the crown.
Pruning woody perennials. Some perennials with woody stems actually prefer pruning in the spring. Examples of perennials that like to be pruned in the spring are:
- black eyed Susan
- butterfly weed
- foxglove (biennial)
- globe thistle
- Joe Pye Weed
- Lamb’s Ear
Evergreen perennial care. Evergreen perennials don’t really go dormant in some areas of the country. But they may still need trimming now.
Examples of evergreen perennials are hellebore and coral bells and also some of my ferns. For me, these are green right through the winter but still look scraggly in the spring, so they need a touch up in early spring.
All of my hellebores are flowering right now and are gorgeous but the foliage really needs trimming. See my tips for pruning hellebores here.
Check your roses. Early spring is a good time for pruning roses. Do this before the leaf buds open. This will allow the plant to send it’s energy into the new growth.
Cut back grassy plants. Grasses often are left for winter interest. My Japanese silver grass has interest all winter long, but in early spring, I give it a good hair cut to encourage it to grow again and to tidy it up.
This means cutting all of the dead leaves and grassy tops right back to just above the crown. The grasses will love this and will send out new growth soon.
Last year we divided some Japanese Silver grass plants and added the divisions along a fence line to hide the fence. The birds loved the seed heads in the winter.
They have grown beautifully but will need to be cut right back this year to allow the new growth to flourish.
You can also divide overgrown grass plants at the same time. They can easily take over a spot of you don’t divide them every few years. Spring is a good time to do this.
Prune trees and shrubs
Look over your small trees and shrubs to see what needs early pruning. Doing so will help to maintain good form for them, and will result in vigorous growth when the growing season really gets going.
Be sure to get information of which shrubs and trees like pruning later in the year. Some benefit from early pruning and others like to be pruned after flowering. The best time to prune depends on when they set flower buds.
Some shrubs that enjoy early spring pruning are:
- rose of Sharon
- butterfly bush
- smooth hydrangea
- boxwood hedges
- holly hedges
Be sure to check out my pruning tips here.
Divide plants in spring
Check to see if perennials have outgrown their spots. Early spring is the time to divide over grown perennials. Give some to your gardening friends or plant the divisions in other areas of your garden.
Transplant plants that are just too big for the garden bed they are in now. Last year, I had to transplant almost everything in one garden bed because I miscalculated how closely to put the plants when I first planted the bed.
Crowded perennials just don’t grow well and really benefit from division. If you divide and transplant early in the spring, they won’t be set back as much as if you do it later in the summer.
Spring garden tips for tools
Spring is a good time to check over your tools. Some may have seen there better days and need replacing. Hopefully, you gave them some care before you put them away in the fall. Put these spring garden tips for tools in place to give you a good foundation for your work.
Examine your Tools.
Did you winterize your tools last fall? If you did, then lucky you! All you need is to check them over and maybe do a light oiling and gather them so they are ready. If not, you have a few things to do to get them ready!
- Inspect the tools and clean the ones that need it.
- Sharpen the edges of tools. Not only will it make digging easier, you will also be less likely to transfer disease from damaged and diseased plants than if your tool edges are dull.
- Clean and inspect your power tools to make sure they are in working order
- Refill the gas cans of your power tools to make sure they will run in tip top shape.
Treat yourself to a new tool
Each year, I treat myself to one new piece of garden equipment or a new tool.
There is no way that I can buy afford to buy everything I need all at once. I purchased the most necessary ones first, and then gradually, each year, I have added something new.
A few years ago, it was a nice, good quality, pitch fork for my compost bin. Last year, I was lucky enough that one of my sponsors sent me an expandable gorilla hose with brass fittings to try out and review.
I have wanted one for years but just never managed to put the money aside for it. I hate the sight of hoses all over my yard, and having to move them each time my husband mows the lawn. With the new expandable hose, that will be a thing of the past.
The hose is a full 150 feet in length and expands in use and contracts when not. It has really well made brass fittings, as well as a shut off valve on one end. I am delighted to have this baby.
General garden tips for early spring
Once you have inspected everything and tidied up in the garden, get ready for the new growth by putting these tips into practice.
Don’t forget the mulch.
Once the winter weeds are gone and the perennials are tidied up, lay down some mulch. There are so many reasons to mulch:
- Mulching cools the roots of the plants, meaning that they will need less water once the growing season starts.
- It helps to smother weeds and prevent them from growing. You have spent all that time getting rid of the winter weeds. Make it easy to keep it that way with mulch!
- Mulching feeds the soil as it breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil and it looks great when things start growing.
Figure out which perennials will need staking and get the stakes inserted. It is so much easier to put a plant stake in before you need it, than to have to deal with all the massive growth, when staking is overdue.
Sure, it’ll look a bit like your garden has big toothpicks in it for a while, but you will be glad you did it when they start growing.
Soil and Composting Tips for Spring Gardens
The soil is the medium that gives your plants their nourishment. It pays to make sure that it is in good shape.
Start with the soil
Inspect your soil. To really get your garden ready for spring, start with the soil. One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced gardeners make is to start planting and working the soil too early.
Months of snow and rain make for a very wet and compacted soil. If you work it now, it can get more compacted from treading on it, and from heavy machinery. Pick up a ball of soil. If it stays compacted in a ball, it is too early to work it.
The soil should break apart easily, not stay in a firm ball. If you have not done so, test your soil with a soil testing kit to make sure you get off to a good start.
Test your soil.
Knowing the balance of nutrients in your soil and the PH balance is important. It helps later if you need to diagnose plant problems and gives you an idea of the type of fertilizing that you’ll need to take care of yourself.
It is a good idea to take a PH test of your soil each year, so you will know if you need to add anything to it. If you do, get those supplies ready. For already healthy soil, just adding compost may be all that you will need.
The Compost Pile.
A compost pile is a collection of garden waste and organic kitchen refuse that will decompose slowing to produce compost or humus. This can be used as a great source of soil enhancement and fertilizer. You would be surprised at how many common items that you can add to a compost pile.
It is important to Inspect not just your garden beds, but your compost pile too. Turn the compost pile regularly. Check for things that are diseased and remove those and also any seed heads that you may find.
You won’t want to be adding compost with weed seeds in it to freshly weeded soil! Be sure to also check out my list of things to never compost.
Starting a compost pile
If you do not already compost, what are you waiting for? The rich earthy compost is black gold to experienced gardeners. Find a level area of your garden and start your compost pile there.
You don’t even need a fancy compost bin. If you have about 10 feet free, you can use a rolling compost pile. I have had more success from this method than from any compost bin that I have used.
Spring is the time to fertilize
Once you have tested your soil to know what condition it is, get out the fertilizer or compost. Most plants like to be fertilized early in the spring when they are having their initial growth spurt.
I use a handful of compost in every hole that I dig for a new plant. It’s a great habit to get into. If you don’t have a compost pile, your soil test will give you an idea of the fertilizer to buy.
A garden planner is a big help to get your garden ready for spring.
Do you intend to make changes to your garden this year? Did some things work well where they are and some languish? Get out that garden planner and sketch your garden the way you would like it to be.
Check the times that your plants took to flower last year. See when your last frost will be so that you know when you can start. A garden planner is invaluable.
I planned my combination perennial/vegetable garden bed last year before I ever dug one hole and I am so glad I did. I had a concrete idea of how it would turn out before I ever started digging.
Plan for new flowers
I try to add several new plants each year. Last year, it was a Hellebore.
I was determined to have something that would flower in the winter time and I am so glad I planned ahead for it. We had snow during the last few weeks and this beauty was still blooming. What a delight! What will you add to your garden this year?
Spend some time learning about the plants that are native to your area and consider planting these. Your water bill will thank you and you will be planting things that will have a good likelihood of success.
Native plants are well adapted to local conditions. They require far less water and this saves both time and money. Also, native plants will encourage local wildlife to visit your yard
Add a new garden bed.
The soil in early spring is easy to dig since it has had plenty of moisture. Weeds will come out easily and you can add a pre-emergent weed deterrent at the same time.
If you have the room, and the ambition, dig up a new garden bed, or get together a lasagna bed for planting later in the year. You can add garden refuse to it as the season progresses. If you start it early enough, you’ll be able to plant in it in summer.
Tips for starting seeds in spring
One of the best ways to save money on your garden is to start as much as you can from seed. You’ll get dozens of plants for less than the price of one perennial!
Time to order seeds.
Order your seeds now. One of every gardener’s favorite things to do each year is to look through the gardening magazines that are starting to arrive. Place your order for seeds
Place your order for seedsnow so that you will have the seeds when it is time to actually plant them.
Seed Planting Tips
Containers for Seed Planting. Don’t wait until it is time to plant seeds before you think about containers. If you don’t have a supply of pots for them, start saving household items to use for planting seeds indoors to give them a head start.
In addition to retail plant starters, some inexpensive and good containers are items that you have around the home. Some ideas are:
- egg cartons
- yogurt containers
- margarine tubs
- egg shells
- citrus rinds.
If you do have pots on hand, be sure to disinfect them so that they will be ready when it is time for you to plant the seeds.
Order seed labels
If you plan to have a lot of plants that start from seeds, gather some plant labels so that you’ll know what you have planted.
You can purchase plant labels online or make use of house hold items like popsicle sticks and firm plastic cut into strips.
Spring Garden Tips for lawns
When you are working to get your garden ready for spring, don’t forget the lawns. Raking your lawns will get rid of winter debris.
It will also help to aerate the soil to insure that air gets to the root zone and will get your lawn off to a good start. Inspect the lawn while you are doing this to see if you need to reseed some areas, or aerate more fully.
If you have dead patches, now is a good time to reseed or add more sod to fill them in.
See my tips for lawn care here.
Spring Garden Tips for Vegetables
A vegetable garden is one of the true pleasures of a spring garden. Here in NC, the summers are so warm that I need to make sure my vegetables are planted and ready to grow in spring to get the best harvests.
Cold Weather Vegetables
If you plan to plant vegetables, be sure to consider how much cold they can take. These cold hardy vegetables are a good choice for early spring planting, since they can really take the cold.
Get early spring vegetables in the ground as soon as the soil can be worked.
Plan for crop rotation
Planting the same vegetables in the same spot each year encourages diseases to flourish. Take the time to plan for some crop rotation.
Crop rotation allows you to decide where to plant each vegetable from one year to the next. This will help manage soil fertility and reduce problems from air borne diseases and soil dwelling insects.
Add Supports for Vegetables
Tall vegetables, such as climbing beans and peas also need supports. Get the supports in early and when you plant the seeds, you will know that the supports will be there for them when they start growing.
This handy teepee supported my climbing beans the last few years. I left it in place and just need to move it when I rotate my crops this year. See how to make this bean teepee here.
What other things do you do to get your garden ready for spring? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave them in the comment section below.
Pin it for later
Would you like a reminder of these early spring garden tips? Just pin this image to one of your gardening Boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
You can also print out the Spring Gardening Check List in the project card below.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in March of 2015. I have update the post with new information, all new photos, a spring garden check list for you to print out and a video for you to enjoy.
- Garden tools
- Soil testing kit
- Print out this check list so that you have it handy when you are starting to garden this year.
GENERAL INSPECTION. LOOK OVER THESE ITEMS FOR DAMAGE
- Fences and trellises
- Raised Garden Beds
- Winter Weeds
- Garden Furniture
- Lawn Edging
- Bird Baths and Bird Houses
- Planters and Pots
SPRING GARDEN PLANT CARE
- Clean up perennials
- Prune woody perennials
- Cut back Grassy plants
- Check Rose bushes
- Prune trees and shrubs that need it
- Divide perennials
- Inspect tools
- Sharpen edges
- Look over power tools
- Refill gas containers
- Purchases new tools if needed
GENERAL SPRING GARDEN TIPS
- Add mulch
- Stake plants
- Inspect soil
- Test soil
- check compost pile (or start a new pile)
- Fertilize plants or add compost to soil
- Buy new plants
- Think about growing native plants
- Dig new garden beds
- order seeds
- Get seed containers ready
- Order Plant labels
- Rake and aerate lawns
- Repair patchy lawns with seed or sod.
- Get cold hardy vegetables in early
- Plan crop rotation
- Add supports for climbing vegetables
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