Getting back into the garden as soon as the snow melt is a top priority for many people. As the temperature get warmer and the welcome colors of the spring bulbs begin to brighten up the landscape the garden begin to show signs of life once again. Here are a few projects which can keep you quite busy during the first couple weeks of spring.
Prepare your lawn for the upcoming season by raking out dead growth and removing winter debris. This will allow light and air to reach the soil and encourage the grass to grow. Re-seed thin spots or bare patches of lawn. Simply rake over the bare spot firmly with a metal rake loosening the soil. Spread grass seed evenly over the area of soil and keep well-watered until seeds germinate and the new grass establishes.
Plant early spring vegetables when soil has thawed and is workable. Soil is ready for gardening once it is free of ice crystals and crumbles easily. Soil that is too wet is easily compacted, reducing beneficial soil aeration. Common early spring crops are peas, spinach, lettuces and leeks.
Plant out daffodils, lilies, crocus, hyacinth and any other bulbs, which were forced in pots or bowls in the house. Some may bloom next spring, others may take two or three years to rebuild enough food reserve to support flowering.
Divide fall blooming perennials which have out grown their allotted spot (See Dividing Perennials). Prepare new beds for perennial flowers by spreading a 6-inch deep layer of organic matter and cultivate into the garden. Plants growing in deep, rich soil are less likely to suffer from summer drought.
Spread compost through out perennial beds and in new beds in preparation for new planting. Resist the urge to dig the bed; established beds have a complex soil ecosystem which is best left undisturbed. Nutrients added from the top will work their way down into the soil.
Acidic soils, those with a pH below 6.2, will benefit from the addition of lime. Ideally, lime should be added several weeks before planting. Soil pH can be determined by using a soil pH test kit.
It is never too early too begin weeding. In fact, any weed which appear in your garden beds will be easiest to pull now, while they‘re young. Mulch your shrub beds with a bark mulch and your perennial beds with a lighter mulch, such as buckwheat hulls, too help control weeds throughout the season. For bark mulch 3 inches is usually effective. Avoid piling the mulch too close to the trunks of trees and shrubs to help prevent rotting.
Prune out dead or damaged branches of trees and shrubs after new growth has begun. Cut back any remaining dead perennial foliage from last season. Prune roses just before they start to bud out. Spring blooming trees and shrubs, however, should not be pruned in late winter, their flower buds ready to open as temperatures warm. Azaleas, forsythia, rhododendrons, and other spring shrubs can be pruned after they bloom.
Prune fruit trees during late winter or early spring, before buds begin to break into bloom.
Thin out some branches of trees, which have a history of leaf spot diseases. Pruning will improve air circulation and penetration of sunlight, which in turn can reduce the incidence of disease. Remove tree guards or burlap wraps from the trunks of young tree or shrubs. This will prevent moisture beneath the wrap, which can encourage rot and promote entry of diseases.
Transplant any existing shrubs you want to move before they begin to leaf out.