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7 Early Spring Garden Tasks
Happy March!! Saying I’m excited for spring would be a huge understatement! Garden season is around the corner for me here in zone 6a which means it’s time to start making decisions and even doing some of those early spring garden tasks! If you’re like me and live in zones 7 and below that means NOW. Zones 8 and above, I’m just jealous of your all-year round gardens, there will be some helpful tips in here for you too — and definitely not too late to start if you haven’t yet!!
I’m going to make this post short and sweet by going over the most important things you can be doing now during the late winter/early spring in order to make the most of your garden season, let’s dive in!
1. Clean Up & Assess
If you missed your chance during fall to clean around your beds it’s totally ok! Get out there and clean up your growing space, you can either til any leaves into the soil or remove them completely. You just don’t want a ton of debris hanging out around your plantings because it’s a notorious place for fungus to grow rampant and you definitely don’t want things like powdery mildew or blight attacking your plants if you can help it!
Now that the snow has melted, (or is melting!) assess your garden and landscape beds for anything else that needs to be fixed or cleaned up and take note. It’s also a good time to take an inventory of supplies and start to think about getting more or replacing anything that has been broken!
If you are planning on building your own raised beds check out this post for my inexpensive, easy to build DIY raised beds tutorial!
2. Start Seeds Indoors
Now is the time to start seeds my friends!! I have to be real, I’m not a *huge* fan of seed starting indoors, I find it very tricky to do, light and heat have to be just right for them to succeed, and you need a lot of patience! But it can also be a lot of fun and it can for sure be a money saver!
There is a great deal of finesse involved with being good at seed starting and there are some intricacies to it so I wrote a whole post with all my tips in one place, plus I included a free downloadable chart so you can easily keep track of your seeds!
Or, you of course could always just go for it and learn as you go! After all, gardening is all about trial and error!
3. Plan and Map Your Garden Space
Be sure to check out how to plan and map your garden! It’s not hard but there definitely are a few tips I give you in this post that will be helpful!
If you’re doing a cut flower garden, check out this post for all my planning tips!
Basically, you’ll want to…
- define your space
- choose the plants you’d like to grow
- research a bit about the plants as far as when to plant, days to germination (if seed starting), days to harvest and necessary spacing between plants (you can find this info right on the seed packet!)
- figure out what you want to plant where, helpful to consider companion planting and other factors like days to harvest and plant size — all of this can be found in my garden planning blog post!
- grab some paper (graph paper is helpful) and physically draw your garden map
- create a tentative planting schedule — so you know when to plant what
- know your hardiness zone – by knowing your zone you’ll know your last frost date and you’ll be able to work off of that for knowing when to start seeds and plant!
I elaborate much more in this post and I highly recommend reading it especially if you are a very beginner! I include all my tips from choosing a location for your garden, to building raised beds and to water and weed management options and everything else you need to know for your first time!
4. Amend Your Soil & Prep Beds
Here are my tips/reminders for amending your soil to get it where it needs to be.
If you are unsure what type of soil you have or are interested in finding out your exact composition and what a professional would recommend adding, contact your local university extension (for NY this is Cornell Cooperative) and get the soil test kit! You send them a sample, they analyze and send you back a report including recommendations for elemental and nutritional amendments!
Guys I can’t stress soil health enough. Everything begins and ends with soil, you get what you give. Flowers and veggie plants vigorously suck the nutrients out of the soil so if there is one thing you remember it’s that your soil has to be healthy and nutrient dense from the start!
- Utilize compost – Can’t speak highly enough of this stuff! Compost is king! It improves soil structure, provides essential nutrients and enhances fertility. It makes sandy soil retain water better and it makes clay soil drain better, like magic! You can find compost at your local garden center, either by the bag or by the yard.
- Follow soil test recc’s – Lucky for you if you got your soil tested! You can follow their super helpful recommendations on exactly what nutrients and elements to add your soil.
- Spring vs. Fall. I amend our soil just before we plant in the early spring by mixing in compost – about 4 bags per 4’x8′ bed. But this is also a task you could do the leg work for in Autumn. After cleaning out your beds in the fall get a head start for next year by adding that compost or simply the fallen leaves that are starting to rot.
- Consider beneficial nematodes and earth worm castings. Both carry essential nutrients to keep your soil strong AND they deter harmful pests that could come to attack your plants later in the season!
5. Start Weeding
I know it seems early but getting a head start on the weeds and even making a plan to maintain them (tips on that in this post!) will be SO helpful later in the season when it seems impossible to stay on tp of everything. It’s never to early to start weeding!
6. Fertilize Your Flowering Shrubs
Once you start to see new green growth popping out of the ground on your shrubs, like hydrangeas and peonies, throw some fertilizer on the ground. Just make sure its a balanced fertilizer with slightly higher phosphate, for example a 4-6-3. Phosphate (the middle number) is the main element needed to grow big, healthy blooms! Below is the one I like for my flowering shrubs!
7. Prune Some Woody Shrubs & Trees
Spring is a good time to prune some kinds of woody shrubs and trees. This post from Proven Winners, Pruning Demystified, is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the basics of pruning but below are some quick tips!
- Start by pruning out anything that has been broken or damaged by winter ice, snow and cold. Remove dead wood, too.
- Follow the general rule that flowering shrubs which bloom on new wood (this year’s growth) can be trimmed in spring. This includes summer flowering shrubs like butterfly bush, smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens), panicle hydrangea (H. paniculata), and roses. Their flower buds will be set on the new flush of growth that appears after you prune it.
- DO NOT prune early flowering shrubs and those that bloom on old wood (last year’s stems) like azalea, forsythia, lilac, endless summer hydrangea, quince, ninebark and weigela in spring. If you do, you’ll risk cutting off this year’s flower buds. You might not be able to see them, but they are there, so resist the urge to prune. These trees and shrubs are best to prune in the summer or fall!
That should do it, I hope these tasks help you get in the mood for gardening! What are some things you always do in the spring for garden prep? Let me know in the comments below!
Looking for more gardening posts? Check these out!
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