Just like giving your house a good spring cleaning to help freshen it up after a long winter, you can take a similar approach to your yard to get it back in shape for the warmer months. Even after the snow and ice melts, it can be a little overwhelming to tackle all the work that needs to be done for a picture-perfect spring landscape. Use this checklist to help pace yourself as you get your flower beds, trees, shrubs, and other areas of your yard cleaned up. It's broken down into early, mid-, and late spring so you can plan out your garden clean-up tasks and hit each area of your landscape before summer arrives.
When you're first getting back out into your garden after the winter, start with these tasks to get your yard ready for spring and the growing season ahead.
1. Clean up flower beds
Clear away dead leaves or any other debris from winter storms from the soil surface where you are planning to plant annual flowers and veggies. Remove protective winter mulch from around perennials and ornamental grasses (hedge trimmers make it easy to give grass clumps a clean, even look), and cut back last year's dried foliage. Remember to wear gardening gloves, especially when working with plants with prickly leaves such as lungwort, to keep your hands protected from cuts and scrapes.
2. Divide perennials
A good time to divide many perennials is just before their spring growth has begun. Dividing perennials is a budget-friendly way to fill your garden with more plants or share them with friends. It's also good for keeping your existing perennials healthy; sometimes, if your plants grow in a large clump, the middle can thin out after a few years, leaving a bare spot. Dividing the clump will encourage new growth.
3. Add fresh mulch around perennials
One of the easiest ways to make your yard look polished is to add a fresh layer of mulch to garden beds. This also helps the soil retain moisture for your plants, and keeps down weeds. It often takes more mulch than it seems to cover a bed, so it's a good idea to get a little more than you think you'll need or you'll likely end up having to go back to the store. Spread mulch evenly with your gloved hands or use a rake, being careful not to layer it on too thickly around your plants because this could cause problems such as diseases. Keeping the layer level also helps it stay in place whenever it rains heavily or is windy. (If you have downspouts that tend to wash away mulch, one fix is to remove mulch where rainwater empties, and replace it with river rocks).
4. Prune trees and shrubs
Now is the time to trim fruit trees if you didn't prune in winter. Prune before buds begin to break into bloom or you'll stress the tree and get a tiny crop (or possibly none). It's also a good time to prune summer-blooming trees and shrubs, like potentilla and butterfly bush, just before they push out new growth.
5. Perform basic maintenance of hardscaping
6. Plant veggies
Hardy, cool-season vegetables, like potatoes, artichokes, peas, and some lettuces, germinate best in cool soil, so plant them in early spring once the soil has thawed. They should be ready to harvest by early summer.
Halfway through the season, you should start seeing your spring landscape take shape as more and more bulbs, perennials, shrubs, and trees start growing again and even blooming. And with most of the clean-up done, you can get started on adding new plants to your garden.
1. Clean bird feeders
Some people like to take down their bird feeders in mid-spring and put them away until fall. If you want to leave them up year-round, now's a good time to take them down, wash them out, and fill them up with fresh seed or nectar for spring.
2. Make notes as you watch the spring show
Some of your spring bulbs should be starting to flower! Enjoy the blooms, and take note of any empty spots where you want to plant bulbs later in the fall.
3. Plant new perennials and cold-hardy annuals
4. Add new trees and shrubs
5. Apply mulch
CREDIT: LYNN KARLIN PHOTOGRAPHY
In late spring, you can start cleaning up flowers that have already bloomed. It's also time to get planting in earnest to fill out your garden.
1. Deadhead bulbs
Remove spent blossoms from spring-flowering bulbs; this encourages the plants to store energy for next year rather than use it to make seeds. Be sure to let the foliage die back on its own without removing it until it is completely yellow or dried up.
2. Shop for summer annuals
3. Start warm-season veggies
4. Plant summer-blooming bulbs
While spring-blooming bulbs should be planted in the fall, summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias and gladiolus should be planted once there's no more threat of frost. Check your area's average last frost date for a general idea of when to plant these bulbs, then get them in the ground after the last frost once the ground has warmed up.