Preparing your garden this spring will make your job a lot easier and result in bumper crop of glorious color and fragrance for months to come.
1) Inspect the Yard
Trim up tree limbs, take off dead growth and clean up the previous season’s perennials and send it to compost. Clear mulch around bulbs. Check and repair steps, paths and fencing for damage from winter extremes.
2) Purchase Plants and Supplies
Clean up gardening tools in preparation for planting and cultivating. Do an inventory of your tools and supplies and purchase those that need replacing. Lay out a plan for your garden and make a list of plants to buy including trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.
3) Do a Tune-Up
Get your lawn mower and leaf blower cleaned and serviced if you didn’t do it at the end of last season. Sharpen the mower blade and replace the spark plugs and change the oil. Make sure all the moving parts are lubricated and working. Before you take on the lawn, pick up sticks and rocks to prevent damage to your mower.
4) Trim and Prune
Take off dead or diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Thin out bushes that bloom all summer long like hydrangeas and roses. Once they’ve started producing new growth, go in and prune areas that were damaged during the winter. Wait to trim spring blooming trees and shrubs after they’ve dropped their flowers.
5) Test the Soil
Take a cursory soil sample from a variety of planting beds around the yard to check for pH. Feed and treat the soil as needed. If you're not sure what to do, visit your local nursery and consult the resident master gardener. You’ll be amazed at how robust and more colorful your plants are when the soil is amended with the proper nutrients.
6) Make the Beds
Clear the planting beds as soon as the soil has warmed and can be easily worked. Pull weeds and remove sod chunks and other debris. Distribute a layer of compost and additional amendments and turn the soil to a depth of 10 inches to ensure everything is mixed well.
7) Time to Plant
Plant all your shrubs and perennials like daylilies by early spring so they have adequate time to get established before the summer heat. Pick a cool and cloudy day for planting. Transplant your container plants and water them thoroughly. Sow seeds for spring flowers and leafy green vegetables and herbs.
8) Feed Your Plants
Trees and shrubs need a balanced fertilizer and possibly additional amendments based on your soil testing. It’s best to feed them when tiny leaves starts to appear. For folks in the South, use a high-acid fertilizer and pine mulch around your azaleas and camellias. Fertilize perennials when you see evidence of new growth. Use a liquid plant food mixed with water to feed your annuals.
9) Start Composting
If you haven’t tried composting, it’s a good time to start. Use all the plant debris collected from yard cleanup. Get in there and chop the plant material up as fine a possible to accelerate the decomposition process. Use equal amounts of dried materials and green matter in even layers with water and a bioactivator. Turn the compost regularly and keep adding to the pile throughout the gardening season. You’ll end up with a rich and fertile growing medium for next year.