Essential Tasks to Prepare for Spring Gardening
Ready, set, plan
After the winter holiday season, most gardeners start itching to get back out
in the yard and start their spring gardens. Unless you live in a mild climate
though, chances are your garden is still under snow or too wet and cold to work.
As a result, January and February are ideal months for planning, ordering seed,
and starting plants indoors to be ready the instant they can jump into the growing
Work back six weeks from the last frost date in your area to develop a timeline.
The following list will help you get started before you set out a single plant.
- Do you want new beds? If so, lay out newspaper 5 or 6 sheets deep, then
add several inches of compost over the top. This kills existing vegetation
by smothering it. Four months later, you can dig it up to work the compost
into the soil. No sod removal is necessary. (This is best done in December
- Shop for seeds in December and January. Order early for best selection.
If you snooze, you'll lose.
- Assess soil. Buy a soil test kit or have soil
tested. Most county extension services can test your garden soil or recommend
labs if they don't. Healthy soil is essential to a productive plant, so it
pays to test especially if your results were unimpressive last year. Call
to find out what you need to do and how long it will take, then plan accordingly.
- Check shrubs and woody plants. What needs pruning? For early spring bloomers
like forsythia, prune promptly after flowering is complete.
- Fruit trees need to be pruned before they begin to blossom if you didn't
get to it while the trees were domant. If they blossom, it's best to wait
until winter rolls around again. (It's okay to prune dead wood.)
- Do you have a lot of perennials? Do any of them need to be moved? Spring
is the time to transplant divisions or move plants around. If you have friends
who are gardeners, it's a good time to arrange trades.
- Check your tools. Clean and sharpen blades on hand tools. Have mower serviced
if you didn't do it in the fall before you put them away. Budget for new tools
or replacements now.
- While you're at it, organize the garden shed. Clean, sterilize, and organize
terracotta pots, planters, and starter trays. Sterilize using a bleach and
water solution of 1 part bleach to ten parts water. Rinse thoroughly, then
dry. (Remember to do this in the fall so you don't have to do it when it's
still cold outside.)
- Clean and repair outdoor furniture. It may be too cold to paint unless you've
got a basement or heated and ventilated work area, but at least they will
be ready when the weather warms.
- If you haven't broken the chemical habit, make sure you check any old chemicals
you might have. Before you discard, check with your county or city waste management
office for guidance on recycling or disposing of any hazardous chemicals.
- Provide or build gardening supports for peonies, tomatoes, peas, beans,
and squash. Supporting flowers with heavy heads prevents breakage. Growing
vegetables vertically saves space and prevents bugs and slugs from knoshing
on your veggies.
- Sow seeds in starter trays according to package instructions and the last
frost date for your area.
Don't get anxious and start working in the garden too early. The soil needs
to be damp but not soggy or sticky. If you take a handful of soil and make a
ball, it should fall apart easily when you open your hand. Also, setting out
plants prematurely often results in discouraging losses. Planning and getting
ready to go saves time and money you'll want to spend on cool new plants and
The Ann Lovejoy Handbook of Northwest Gardening: Natural Care and Sustainable Design
If you need yard work or annual maintenance, a professional landscaping service
can save you time. ContractorNexus