Your Ultimate Spring Gardening Checklist

Mon Jun 6 2022

Close up of a metal watering and wooden ladder on a lawn surrounded by flowers and plants

Gardeners know that if you want to lush plants and vibrant flowers in the summer, you’ve got to get organized in the spring. Take a look at our spring gardening checklist for simple tasks to get you started.

1. Clean Up Debris

The first step is to remove dead leaves and branches that may have accumulated in your garden during the winter months. You also want to toss out any mulch you used on your perennials. While all this debris protected your plants from the cold, it now needs to be cleared out so the sun can do its magic. Much of what you clean up can go on your compost pile if you’re into sustainable gardening.

2. Remove Winter Protection

Now is the time to take off any winter protection, such as burlap barriers or wraps. The plants no longer need the defense and will be hindered by the protection as they try to bloom in the spring and summer. You can also remove any staking on trees that have been in the ground for more than a year.

3. Weed Flower Beds

You may have some leftover weeds from the previous season, and new ones probably sprouted as the weather warmed. The best time to pull weeds is early spring, when the ground is softer than summer’s hard, dry soil, but the best tip is to get to them before they grow. Otherwise, you may have a tough time getting the entire root.

4. Inspect Your Trees

Winter can be hard on trees, so take a close look at yours and remove dead wood and storm-damaged branches. Not only does this make your trees more attractive, but it’s also a good move for your homeowners insurance because it reduces the chance for branches to cause damage in a windstorm.

You also want to examine the tips for discoloration. This could be dieback, a condition where trees die from the tip of their leaves backwards. When you see it, snip the tips off to encourage new growth.

5. Prune Your Shrubs

Shrubs that bloom in the late summer and early fall typically need to be pruned in the spring. Pruning simply means removing part of a plant to encourage and manage growth. Common parts to prune include:

  • Dead, dying, and diseased branches.
  • Awkwardly growing branches, such as branches that grow down rather than up.
  • Shoots growing from the trunk of a tree or the base of a shrub.

Good pruning is key to healthy, beautiful plants, but remember the rule here is “less is more.” Be careful not to snip new buds that may flower. Another good rule? Wait until you see flowers on spring-blooming plants before you prune them.

6. Fertilize Your Flower Beds

Once you’re certain that you won’t see frost and cold weather again, you can apply fertilizer to get your soil in the best possible condition for new plants. Natural, organic fertilizers are usually the best way to go because synthetics may harm your soil over time. Beyond that, you need to choose a fertilizer that suits your plants and soil.

7. Divide Your Perennials

As perennials return, you want to give their roots more space to get the nutrients they need. You can do this by dividing them into multiple plants before new growth begins. Replant the perennials you split off and water liberally to help them re-root in their new home. However, you only want to do this with perennials that bloom later in the seasons. If you already see buds or flowers, It’s best to wait until the fall.

8. Edge Your Flower Beds

Edging is when you create a border between your flower beds and other areas, most commonly your lawn. Doing this makes your garden look neat and tidy, but it also helps to create a lip that holds mulch in place and may even keep weeds at bay.

Follow these steps if you’ve never edged a flower bed before:

  • Outline where you want your border with a string, garden hose, or spray paint.
  • Cut along that border with a sharp edging tool, like a spade.
  • Remove the turf.
  • Add mulch.

You can also add brick pavers or metal edging to further define your flower bed.

9. Prevent Weeds

While you can fight weeds with an herbicide, you may want to try some options that don’t require chemicals. For example, weeds take advantage of open spaces, so you can minimize their growth by placing your flowers close together. A thick layer of mulch can also smother out small weeds. Finally, avoid unnecessary tilling and cultivating once your garden gets going. Turning over your soil moves weed seeds to the surface and encourages their growth.

10. Harden Your Plants for the Outdoors

If you started growing your plants inside, you need to gradually prepare them for being outside. The process is called hardening, and it protects seedlings by thickening the cuticle on their leaves .

You can usually start hardening by placing your plants outdoors once the temperature hits 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them in a place that’s protected from the wind and direct sunlight for about an hour. Gradually increase their time outdoors by about an hour every day, then move them to direct sunlight after two or three days. By the end of the second week, your plants will most likely be ready to transplant.

11. Make Over Your Outdoor Space

With all the hard work you’ve put into your spring gardening, you’ll want to have a chance to enjoy it. Maybe that means investing in new patio furniture, adding a privacy fence, or decorating with wind chimes or gazing balls ﹘the choice is totally up to you. After all, you’ve earned the opportunity to put your feet up and enjoy your garden!