Spring. The time when flowers begin to bloom, bees start to buzz, and the temperature finally warms up after a long, cold winter. Do you suddenly have a giant spring garden to-do list? Do you need to hit the “refresh” button for your yard? Are you unsure where to start? Well, we are here to help you organize your tasks because we know you are busy, weekend-warriors like we are.
Now is the time to get a jump on your Spring garden tasks! What do you need to do to get started?
Sean and I have so many spring garden to-do lists it is ridiculous. We need to finish puppy-proofing our backyard, begin our front-yard landscape project, finish building our new deck, order more mulch for our beds, prepare our containers for planting, continue weeding, etc, etc, etc. Sounds exhausting, huh?
But, that’s what makes us tick; we thrive on staying busy, being productive, and creating a rewarding outdoor environment we can enjoy year round. We are the unique couple who attempt to tackle as many projects as possible in one weekend. You could call us multi-tasking experts, or just great list makers. Pro tip: Coffee helps.
So, where should you begin in your own garden? Read on to learn about our basic spring garden task list that will help you kick-start your yard into shape for the season. Kind of like boot-camp for your garden. Doesn’t that sound helpful?
Each step is broken into sub-sections so you can quickly glance through our content with ease. We even included the average frequency needed for each step in general, depending on the size of your yard of course. And by “frequency” we mean how many times you will need to repeat each of these steps during the spring season.
By the end of this post, you will learn about our top 5 suggestions for spring garden tasks you should be attending to right now.
Alright, let’s dig in!
By the way, are you listening to our podcast yet? Check it out!
Top 5 Spring Garden Tasks You Should Start Right Now:
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What: Simply put, weeding is the removal and prevention of unwanted or invasive plants in and around your garden. The sooner you start, the sooner you can STRESS LESS.
Why: Keeping weeds under control in your garden means your plants will have more space to grow, have more light, sun, and nutrients to soak up, and also means you will have more time to do the other tasks I will mention. So, stay sharp and keep both eyes open for any unwanted plants in your garden. By the way, weeding can also relieve stress and provide you some great outdoor exercise. Weeding, for the win.
How: To best weed your garden, physically pull or remove the whole plant and try to get the roots, too. You can use your hands, a small one-handed shovel called a trowel, a shovel, or a hoe. Other tools can be used to physically separate the unwanted plant from the ground. We are not above ripping those dang weeds right out of the ground, especially after a long day of teaching middle-schoolers (Read here or here for more about us).
Frequency: Medium-High. On-going weeding will be required all year long. Sorry, there is no easy way around this one, but there are steps you can take to lessen the number of weeds you will experience. Check the related articles below for more.
- Your spring garden can bring a lot of weeds to the surface. Stay on top of the work by weeding consistently.
- Be sure to be familiar with the noxious weeds in your city or county so they don’t get a foothold in your yard.
- You can check for your county’s noxious weed list by first going to the National Noxious Weed Board‘s website and then find your state and the county. Most lists should have pictures to help you identify unwanted interlopers in your garden, AND don’t hesitate to contact your county extension agency for more info, too!
- We want to recommend a great eco-friendly product made by Eartheasy that can be used for eliminating weeds. This is a non-toxic, safe product that contains natural ingredients. We like that we can use this product in the yard around our puppy without feeling nervous about her getting sick. Click the link here or click on the visual ad link below.
What: Mulch is the material you SHOULD be putting down over your freshly weeded garden bed areas. Mulch can be chipped wood chunks or fine wood-dust, sawdust, compost, different kinds of rocks, burlap-bags, cardboard, newspaper, or other materials.
Why: Mulch is used to beautify, help retain moisture, insulate your plant’s roots, reduce erosion, improve drainage and plant health, and OF COURSE, suppress or prevent future weed growth. Plus, mulching can help your spring garden look freshly dressed and ready for the summer months ahead!
How: Mulching is the actual placement and spreading of the mulch material in and around our garden. You can use rakes, shovels, or hoes to spread the mulch around.
Need more help? We have a FREE printable mulching cheat sheet right here!!
Frequency: Very low. Once a year, or every other year as needed.
- Be sure to only place the mulch close to, but not right up against, plant stems or trunks because this can lead to disease and pest infestations.
- Keep the mulch at least 2-3 inches away from plant tissues.
- How to Mulch: Basic Steps for Mulching Anytime of Year
- Top 7 Reasons Mulching Your Garden is Beneficial
3) Pruning! What? – YES, we said pruning.
What: Pruning occurs when you need to remove plant material due to: 1) Dead plant tissue, 2) Diseased plant tissues, 3) Rubbing/crossing branches that could rub in the future, or 4) Shaping of your plant.
Why: Technically and horticulturally speaking, pruning should really only occur after a plant has bloomed and gone through its normal reproductive cycle. If it doesn’t get a chance to do this, then in most cases the plant will try to compensate by re-establishing or re-growing its flowers until it gets through its cycle. Meaning, the plant won’t be healthy or you may have to re-prune it a second time. Especially if other environmental factors align as well, like temperature, light duration, and plant overall health.
Pruning should only occur after a plant has bloomed and gone through its normal reproductive cycle
How: Using hand-shears, loppers, or a hand-saw, determine what plant part you need to remove, use the cutting hand tool to cut the material. When cutting, be sure to cut just above any buds to promote that bud to grow and direct future growth to that point. Also, if removing a whole stem or limb, be sure to cut just above or past the trunk/branch collar so the plant can heal properly. For a quick-and-dirty pruning lesson, click here.
Frequency: Low. Once or twice for the season, depending on the plant.
- Again, only prune after the plant has flowered and goes through its reproductive cycle.
- Some shaping can happen in your spring garden for plants in general, but major shaping and forming should be done later after flowering. Of course, you can do what you feel is best. They are your plants.
- Two good examples of plants Sean personally maintains in our garden are:
- Rhododendrons – which should definitely only be pruned for shaping AFTER it has bloomed for the year. You can prune directly after pruning in the spring or summer (depending on which season it blooms in) and then also a quick refresh-pruning in the fall.
- Roses – which should be pruned in general at the end of their dormant season just as their buds are beginning to swell in late winter or early spring, but it really depends on the type of rose. We have a climbing rose and it’s best to prune these after they have bloomed and train them so they grow more horizontally. As with other roses, pruning out older canes, dead or diseased tissue, or stems crossing that are rubbing or could rub. If your climbing rose blooms multiple times during a year, then prune it at the normal time for roses according to your local climate, or when the buds begin to swell.
- 7 Best Garden Tools for Your Winter Pruning Needs.
- How to Best Prune Your Garden This Winter. Yes, It Can Be Done.
- A Rose By Any Other Name: February Plant Profile.
What: By placing organic or synthetic nutrients and materials around plants for them to take in is called fertilizing. It’s like a dose of vitamins for your plants that will help them maintain and improve their general health or promote flowering.
Why: You need to fertilize in your garden so all your plants are as healthy as they can be.
How: Fertilizer can derive from organic sources, like compost from manure or decomposed plant or food material. It can also come from synthetic sources, like Miracle Grow fertilizers (Our recommendation: Miracle-Gro 3001910 Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Continuous Release Plant Food). Another synthetic product is Osmocote, which is a manufactured time-release fertilizer that can supply over 3-6 months nutrients to your plant roots every time it either rains or your water or irrigate your garden.
Our general rule-of-thumb would be to use compost around your garden beds or raised planter beds. This will supply nutrients slowly over time with the organic matter breaking down along with improving the soil structure and soil profile around your plants. This will also improve water infiltration and drainage, and soil microorganism habitat which any healthy soil needs. Our other rule-of-thumb is to use synthetic, time release fertilizer for your potted plants and container gardens. This is because most potting soils are already optimized for drainage and infiltration with no need for soil profile improvement. You will need to replace the soil in your pots and containers each year anyway to decrease disease spread and pest habitat and have new, invigorated, uncompacted soil for your new plants for the year.
Frequency: Low. Once or twice for the season, depending on the plant.
- Fertilizer comes in many forms and depending on that form will determine how you handle and apply it, so be sure to read labels and know what you need to get the job done.
5) Lawn Maintenance, broken into four separate tasks:
What: Aerating is where you are creating areas in your lawn for more air and intake into grass-roots.
Why: This is done to create air pockets in the soil so grass-roots can better respire. This also helps with water infiltration and soil drainage, where the water can penetrate deeper to the lower grass-roots.
How: By either taking soil plugs physically out of the lawn soil or using penetrating metal spikes.
Frequency: Low. Once a season.
- Aerating can also lessen any puddling of water that happens.
- Aerating can help reduce soil compaction, making it easier for grass-roots to grow and take up more nutrients, water, and oxygen.
What: Top-dressing is when the soil is added and placed in thin-sheets over existing grass to replenish the soil profile with sand, organic matter, clay, or another soil type.
Why: Partly to add natural nutrients to the soil, help with drainage, water retention, and compaction, but also to help with any new grass seed that is about to be sown over the existing grass.
How: Basically add top-soil or other beneficial material by spreading it over your existing lawn in layers as to not completely bury it, but enough to provide new grass seed to be completely covered after being raked in.
Frequency: Very low. Once a year.
- A two-way or three-way garden soil mix is preferred where either has a mix of compost and sand and/or topsoil also. All of these provide structure and soil retention of water with drainage.
What: New grass seed is spread and worked into the top-dressed soil by raking or mixing seed and soil.
Why: Once the new seed germinates, it will blend with the existing grass to create a fuller, thicker, and healthier looking grass. This gives your lawn a rejuvenated look. This is especially useful if you have recently thatched your lawn or demossed it and there are patches of grass missing causing the leftover lawn to look sparse.
How: After soil top-dressing, spread seed over the new soil either by hand or with a kind of spreader, and try to make your coverage as even as possible. Next, use a leaf-rake and gently rake back and forth over the seed to work it in and mix with the top-dress soil. Do this until most of the seed is completely covered by the soil. Finally, water away!
Frequency: Low. If you have pets, maybe 2-3 times a year.
General Tips: (sorry, there are a lot)
- Be advised, lawn seeding is generally best in the late summer or early fall when day temperatures aren’t higher than 70-degrees and nighttime temperatures aren’t lower than 50-degrees. In most areas, fall and winter are usually wetter months (especially in the PNW where we live) and the new grass seedlings will have moist soil around them to keep growing.
- We are recommending seeding your grass in the spring only because it can give your lawn a new vibrancy and healthier look into the summer.
- If you do re-seed your lawn in the spring, be aware that you will need to watch your watering like a hawk and not let your lawn soil get too dry.
- You will also have to be VERY careful when mowing the newly seeded areas by raising the mower deck up at least 1/2 – 1-full inch or more in height so you don’t cut the new grass seedlings too low. It’s completely up to you when you seed your lawn, but just be aware of these points.
- Any seed needs to be completely covered with top-dressing soil to properly germinate.
- Exposed or not fully covered seed will have a harder time germinating and will most likely become bird or critter food.
- There is a great lawn seed product, called Eco-Lawn that we highly recommend. Why? Because you only have to mow your grass once to a few times a year with this product! This lawn seed is environmentally-friendly and produces drought-tolerant grass that is less vulnerable to insects. This product is a winner! Click on this link for Eco-Lawn or click the picture ad below to view the list of other eco-friendly products they offer.
What: Refer to above for fertilizing your garden. Same premise.
Why: Refer to above for fertilizing your garden. Same premise.
How: Get your drop-spreader or broadcast-spreader out and fill it with a triple-16 lawn fertilizer (Scott’s, Lilly Miller, etc). Set the spreader according to what the product label says, and start walking.
Frequency: Low. Once a season.
- You can use either natural or synthetic fertilizers for your lawn.
- For the more environmentally-minded gardener, you should use compost or another natural source.
- For the time-sensitive gardeners out there who need a fast and easy solution, the synthetics are for you with the triple 16 or 10 lawn fertilizer made by Scotts or Lilly-Miller; their general “weed and feed” products work well.
- You should try the EarthEasy brand of lawn care products and see what you think. Treat them the same as you would your garden ground beds and raised planting beds, used to improve the grasses soil profile and soil health over time. Lilly-Miller or Scotts are also good brands that don’t disappoint.
- A natural fertilizer could work also, but be wary of using any full strength manures or fish-emulsions, as they can burn and kill any new grass seedlings.
Pro-Tip 1: Before you top-dress, seed, or fertilize your lawn, be sure to mow it first! If you mow after this, your mower will physically pick up a significant amount of seed, soil, and fertilizer along with any tall cut grass which you will be throwing away. You might as well pull out your money and burn it right now. So, mow first, THEN work in your lawn area.
In addition to the 5 spring garden tasks above, some other minor tasks that can have a huge impact on your garden’s look and curb-appeal are:
- Cleaning driveways and walkways-
- Pick up any debris leftover from the winter months.
- Blow off all areas using a blower.
- Pressure wash both areas.
- You might need a mold or moss killer to get it looking clean. By the way, be careful and follow the label instructions for any products you use.
- Container Pots-
- Plant seasonal splashes of color at your entrances, walkways, and backyard.
- Add seasonal interest using annuals.
- Accent your yard’s points of interest with strategically placed pots.
- Attract birds and pollinators early.
Pro-Tip 2: Prioritize your to-do list according to you and your own garden’s needs. There are lots of opinions out there telling you specifically what to do and why. Most of these tasks I have talked about can be done independently of each other, with the exception of weeding BEFORE you mulch. Make your to-do list work for you according to your schedule. You will feel so much better about it and won’t stress as much. Hey, a couple fewer things to worry about. Who doesn’t like that!
Based on your priorities, you probably feel like you have even more spring garden tasks to accomplish now. Hopefully, with our top 5 list above and a few recommended products, you can begin tackling these mini-projects one at a time. Each step will take some time and energy but you will be rewarded each time you sit down and relax in your yard. You will be thankful that you took the time. Coming soon, we are excited to offer a “spring garden boot camp challenge” in May that’ll whip your garden into shape! Good luck prepping your garden for the season ahead!
After reading this list, what are you top 5 spring garden tasks? Comment below and let us know!
Well, that’s all for now.
Thanks for reading and we hope we inspired you or educated you in some way. For more information about spring garden information, listen to our podcasts or check out our post about how to mulch so you can get your garden ready for a fantastic season ahead! Make sure to watch for next week’s blog post where we will discuss our latest DIY project, how to make raised garden beds.
Let us know if you have any questions or comments anytime, we would love to help.
See you in the garden!
~ Sean and Allison
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