Updated: Mar 24, 2020
It's the beginning of Spring, in most areas, people are preparing their gardens for planting. But what is necessary to prepare your spring garden? Here are specific steps you should take every year:
Preparing Garden Beds
Early spring is ideal timing to add soil nutrients, ensure the soil isn’t compacted, and remove any stray weeds. Many people choose this time of year for tilling, as well (although if you’re using no-till methods, you may be able to skip that step).
Check Your Soil
Spring is when you’d also work your cover crops into the soil and give them a couple of weeks to start decomposition before planting. Cover crops provide a great nutrition boost to young plants.
It is best to do a soil test and a pH test at this time of year to see what your beds are going to need. You can have Accent Lawn Care test your soil or purchase a commercially-available test option.
Compacted soil needs to be loosened to provide airflow and allow young roots to easily grow. There’s multiple ways of loosening your soil. If necessary, you can do it with amendments such as perlite which will help provide nooks and crannies in the soil for easy airflow. Simply adding some organic matter will also provide plenty of air and moisture-retention potential, so this is a great time to work compost into the soil.
Raised beds may need to be topped off with more soil. This may not seem like it’s going to be a problem when you first install your raised bed. After all, you probably put what seemed like a ton of soil in there!
Finally, it’s time to fertilize. Did your soil test come back telling you that you need more nitrogen? Is potassium low?
Decide what fertilizer you’ll need based upon the plants you’ll be putting into that spot. Different plants have different needs. Tomatoes enjoy a kick of calcium to prevent blossom end rot. Your pansies and petunias might want phosphorous for flowering.
A couple of weeks prior to planting is good for most organic fertilizer choices, as it gives the nutrition time to spread throughout the surrounding soil. However, you can also work in slow-release granular fertilizers at this time of year for long-term nutrient boosts.
If you’re going to be direct-seeding into your beds, you’re not going to want to mulch yet so young plants can germinate. However, if you’ll be doing transplants, mulch once you’ve done your soil preparation. A thick layer of mulch can protect your prepared soil against weed seeds and other problems.
It’s good to use the canopy as a guide for how far out to mulch your tree’s base. Mulching is most beneficial for trees that are younger than 10 years of age, as they will form much deeper root systems as they mature.
Perennial & Bush/Shrub Maintenance
At the very beginning of spring, before your shrubs begin to bud out and form leaves, it’s time for a light pruning for shaping purposes. However, if your bushes are already showing signs of new growth, do not prune them at this time.
Perennial flowers often get heavily mulched for the winter. As the ground begins to warm, you can remove any matted mulch.
This is especially important if you’ve used leaves as mulch, since they can form a dense mat, and pests can hide in leaf litter. Either completely dispose of the old mulch material, or put it into a hot compost pile. You can re-mulch once the rainy season eases to help keep moisture in the soil for the summer.
Early in the spring, before your perennial plants begin to put out new growth, cut them back. Most perennials should be trimmed back to about 2″ above the ground. Ornamental grasses should be cut back to about a fifth of their full size. This enables your plants to put up fresh growth.
Some plants may be in need of division. If you haven’t divided a plant for 2-3 years, it’s time to consider doing so. Not only does dividing provide you with new plant starts that you can plant elsewhere, but it helps keep your older plants healthy, as they have ample room to grow and spread.
Finally, if there’s any shrubs you’ve been meaning to move, now’s the time to do it. Prepare their new location in advance, then carefully dig them out, being sure to get all of their root structure. This process can be slow, but is well worth it later once the plants have become established in their new location.
Spring Garden Lawn Care
With the spring comes the crabgrass. It’s essential to strike quickly before crabgrass takes over and forms deep root structures, or else this will become a long-term problem for you. Similarly, remove dandelions and any other weeds you might find so that they don’t produce seed and come back over and over.
Be sure to reseed with your lawn seed anywhere where you remove crabgrass, as well as on any bare spots. If necessary, add a little compost to the bare spots to encourage good growth.
Lawn aeration also usually happens during the spring months when the soil is soft and easy to work. Whether you’re using a hand aerator or a machine, this process gives your lawn breathability and offers you the option to add some compost directly into the soil. .
Be wary of adding too much fertilizer or compost during the spring months, because it can wash off in the rain. Lawn aeration will create small pockets into which fertilizer can easily fall and stay on your lawn instead of floating away.
Speaking of floating away, be sure to clear any remaining leaves or debris that built up in drainage trenches or low spots in the yard. This is essential to reduce the chances of overwintered pests, but also ensures that any subsequent spring showers won’t develop large pockets of moisture.
You can also dethatch your lawn in the spring. This removes any old grass clippings, twigs and branches which might be blocking new growth, and helps young grass blades spring forth from the soil.
General Yard Maintenance
This is the time of year to check your irrigation system for leaks, as well as for good spray distribution. If you’re using an above-ground system, replace any damaged hose or drip flags at this time. Check these as soon as the ground has thawed enough that freezing pipes aren’t a risk.
Spring is also ideal for adding long-term garden features. If you haven’t developed a compost pile yet, now’s the time to add one, even if it’s something as simple as a compost tumbler. You’ll be developing lots of green waste, and why not turn that into rich, lush soil? Constructing your potting bench now would also be a good choice.
Replace old mulch around pathways during the spring. This is important to prevent weed appearance, but also just generally makes the yard look more appealing. Any large mulched areas you may have can be re-mulched at this point, too.
Catch vines before they take over. Does your neighbor have a vining plant that tends to devour your fence during the summer? If you catch it in the spring before it can get established, you can keep it from ever taking control.
As we charge forward into spring, taking these simple steps to get your garden the best start for the year will help it to thrive!