Whether we march in like roaring lions or limp in like lambs, spring is upon us and with it comes a litany of questions regarding the what, when and how of spring gardening tasks. Getting off to a good start is always preferred so there is no better time to look at the most common tasks that need to be handled to help make this year’s gardening season the best ever.
Getting cleaned up.
My spring cleanup begins with picking up sticks and leaves and then cutting down the grasses and perennials that I didn’t get to in the fall. March is my month to get out and perform dormant pruning of trees and shrubs. My fruit trees need pruning every year, and I am always doing a little structural pruning of my ornamental trees as well as removing damaged/broken limbs. Thinning or rejuvenating blooming shrubs happens in March as does thinning of Boxwood and other evergreen hedges that I didn’t get to in fall. I am a big believer in dormant oil spray that protects trees, shrubs and roses from harmful insects. This organic control is an inexpensive way to protect many of your landscape plants without using toxic chemicals.
In the veggie garden.
I am keeping out of my vegetable gardens until their soil dries and then I will be adding compost to help build beneficial soil microbe activity. If all goes well, I will be planting peas and onion sets by the end of March and my cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, kale) by mid-April. Additional cool season vegetables can be planted as early as April 15th while other warm season plants will wait until mid-May when the threat of frost has passed.
What about the lawn?
My lawn looks just like spring lawns always do... terrible! Heat and sun will get the turf growing again, and I will want to have my first lawn food down by then to take full advantage. I will need to use crabgrass control this year because I had quite an infestation last summer. I have an area I need to re-seed but will wait until May to spread the seed when the soil will be warm enough to stimulate germination.
Last year I have very few weeds in my beds because I used a germination inhibitor (Preen) to keep weed seeds from growing. An application in late March, late April and in June had my bed nearly weed-free all summer long.
Of course, you can’t think spring gardening without thinking about mulch. Mulch does more than just make beds look good. It holds down weeds and moderates soil temperature and moisture. Most importantly, high quality mulch also promotes the development of beneficial soil microbes that enrich garden soils and produce plant nutrition naturally.
Getting fed up.
I don’t necessarily feel the need to fertilize all my landscape plants but there are some that I feel greatly benefit from a spring feeding. New plants will naturally benefit from additional fertilization as will plants that may be struggling along. Evergreens like Pines, Spruce, Rhododendron and Azaleas tend to be heavier feeders as do roses and groundcovers. I recommend organic plant foods that last longer and feed the soil as well as the plants.
When can I get planting?
Now is the perfect time to plant your flower and garden seeds indoors. Trees, shrubs and perennials can be planted out just as soon as garden soils dry out. Treading on soggy soils collapses very important air pockets that are necessary for good plant growth. When/if plant or flower beds require preparation by tilling, soils must be very dry which (depending on location and weather) may not happen until later in spring. Pansies and other cold season flowers can be planted as soon as the soil dries, but most flowers will wait until mid-May as well.
For those who may still have questions on how best to take care of your landscape don’t hesitate to consult with the garden professionals at Lowe’s Greenhouse who have been waiting all winter to talk gardening with you.
Indeed, spring is a busy time for gardening, but isn’t it great to be able to get back outside and... play in the dirt!