Prepare to be all green thumbs this spring by giving your garden and tools a bit of attention just before the season turns. A small amount of planning and some routine maintenance will set you up to be the proud owner of an enviable garden and enjoy a highly successful planting season.
Winter can turn outdoor spaces into a blank canvas again, so make the most of this opportunity to start fresh and bring new greenery to life for spring.
Oh, the difference it makes using tools that have been sharpened and renewed with some oil! Take this time to assess your range of forks, spades, and clippers. You will thank yourself later when you are gardening in full swing with tools that work as good as new. Use a mil file to sharpen blades, and penetrating oil can remove existing and prevent further corrosion.
Sort out your shed during the tail end of winter while it is still better to be indoors than out in the cold! Give it a tidy and throw out whatever is no longer needed. Sweep away dust and leaves and make this storage space inviting and convenient.
This is also a good time to assess your stock of fertilizer and other items you use throughout the warmer months. Replenish anything that needs topping up, so you are ready to hit the ground running when spring arrives.
Similar to giving your shed a new lease on life, your garden beds are probably covered in leaves and organic debris that have built up over autumn and winter. Give your beds a good rake, pull out any weeds, and sweep the walkways. Be careful to dispose of the weeds properly so they do not re-establish themselves.
Add organic matter you collect to your compost pile, but make sure weeds are put right in the middle where the heat will kill them before seeds can germinate.
While you are going about your garden removing the organic matter that has piled up, keep an eye out for snails, slugs, and aphids. You can also check that nothing has been hibernating in your compost heap. White vine weevil larvae, for instance, are notorious for this and feed on root plants.
Remove these unwanted guests so your plants have the best chance at a successful start.
Soil can get compacted after the cold winter months and repeated frost exposure. Loosen up your soil and aerate it by turning the top food or so with a sharp spade or fork. Well-composted matter can be added in, but organic matter that is too fresh — like those aforementioned leaves — should be removed.
At this time, you could take a soil sample to see exactly what kind of compost would be most beneficial; most soils can be improved by added nutrients and moisture retention. After adding the compost, give the ground another gentle rake and water, to release air pockets and settle the new layer.
Take stock of your perennial plants and any shrubs and trees in the yard, and give a good prune to anything that needs it. Be sure to do your research first, as some plants are finicky about what time of year they're cut back.
If the species allows, prior to spring leaf development is a good time for pruning because you can see the shape of the plant clearly. Add a bit of fertilizer to the roots of the plants you prune so they can heal quickly and send up nutrients for new growth.
With the new planting season ahead, you will undoubtedly be tempted to buy exciting new plants to add to your budding garden. To avoid buying more than you have space for, plot your garden layout ahead of time. Measure the space and draw it out to scale on paper. Identify where you want each plant type to go — you could even take companion plants into consideration — and determine approximately how many seeds or seedlings you'll need.
Not enough ground area? Consider picking up some pots for container planting. Installing window boxes is another great way to display spring blooms all over your property.
Perennials like daylilies have a tendency to overcrowd each other, and this can hamper their potential to bloom and flourish every year. Early spring is the perfect time to uproot and carefully divide them, replanting them with more space between them to ensure they can thrive and flower to their full potential.
Plants like onions, potatoes, and artichokes are hardy enough to be planted during the chilly early spring, so if you live in certain hardiness zones, you can go ahead with getting these rooted.
Plants that need more time to acclimate to the outside temperatures can start their journey in your shed or garage; they'll grow stronger in this in-between temperature so they're ready for the cooler ground once you transition them fully.
After all that hard work weeding, do what you can to make sure those uninvited residents don't return.
Mulch is useful for preventing weeds. It also adds a layer of protection and reduces the amount of moisture lost to the elements. Be careful not to cover new seedlings in mulch, though, as they may not be able to push through the thick layer. Your established plants, however, will love this addition and reward you eagerly.