Spring Checklist for Prepping Your Gardens

spring garden prepSpring is finally here and your gardens are waking up!  It’s time to plant, prune and prepare your beds for the growing season.  Listed below are some important steps to follow when getting your gardens ready for spring:

1.  Shape up your tools

  • Clean tools– this is necessary so that you don’t accidentally spread a fungus, insect eggs or diseases throughout the garden. 
  • Sharpen tools – sharpen pruners, shears, loppers and other gardening tools that are dull. This allows you to make clean cuts when pruning, keeping your plants healthier.  It also saves time with garden clean up if your tools are in shape.

2.  Test and amend soil

Soil testing is recommended in order to ensure the best growing conditions for plants.   The test is cheap and easy to perform.  The results will help you discover if your soil is lacking nutrients and direct you towards the appropriate fertilizer combination.  It will also determine the pH of the soil and give recommendations about how to amend the soil if needed.  Soil test kits are available from your local county extension office for a small fee.  They can also be purchased from commercial garden centers.

3.  Clean up garden beds

  • Pull weeds – get rid of weeds now before they spread.  They’re easier to pull in early spring since their roots are shallower.  Weeding isn’t a fun job but more endurable if performed on cooler spring days.
  • Rake debris – rake leaves, twigs, fallen branches and old plants such as annuals leftover from the previous season.  You can add the debris to your compost pile but be careful not to mix in old plants that are diseased.

4.  Prep perennial beds

  • Add organic matter – this includes compost, peat moss, rotted manure, etc.  Work the matter into the top layer of the soil while loosening up the old winter mulch.
  • Mulch the beds – add a layer of mulch (usually 2 to 3 inches) to prevent weed growth and retain moisture.   Apply the mulch around the sprouting root mass of each plant and not over the top of it.
  • Divide perennials – you can divide and re-plant perennials such as daylilies as soon as green stems emerge.

5.  Prune and cut back plants

As the old saying goes, “When forsythias bloom it’s time to prune…”  Prune back perennial plants in early spring to shape them and to encourage healthy new growth.  This includes roses, butterfly bushes, lavender and other woody perennials that bloom on new branches.  Be sure to remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems and suckers.   Ornamental grasses can also be cut back to several inches off the ground, using garden shears. 

Wait to prune hydrangea bushes that bloom on old wood until mid-summer so that you don’t destroy this year’s flower buds.  This includes the traditional big leaf group and oak leaf type hydrangeas.   Some other varieties that flower in the summer can be pruned in early spring.  Examples are smooth leaf ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas and panicle hydrangeas that have large cone flowers. 

6.  Plant early spring vegetables

Veggie garden soil is workable and ready for planting if it crumbles and is dry.  Wait to plant if the soil is too wet and easily compacted (forms a ball in your hand).  Once the soil is ready, you can plant transplants for early spring vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and cabbage.  Carrots, radishes and peas can be grown from seed and sown in the garden at this time.  Don’t forget to protect your seedlings if a hard frost sets in.  Cover them with a milk jug, overturned bucket or a large flower pot.

7.  Perform basic maintenance

Winter can be hard on the infrastructure of your garden including raised beds, fences, containers and trellises.  Now is a good time to fix anything that’s been damaged.  It’s also a good idea to inspect and clean porches, decks and patios.

Taking the time to prep your gardens is a worthwhile effort.  Your plants are more likely to thrive and your gardens will look better aesthetically.  It’s also a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the fresh air after a long winter. 

For more information about vegetable and flower selections for spring planting, please contact Floral and Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797.