Spring Gardening Tips

Each spring I enter my own garden as well as the gardens of my customers with a sense of optimism, even when faced with the mess left by the previous winter.  With garden centers putting out their new stock and the temperatures getting warmer how can you not be optimistic.  To help your garden get off to great start follow some of these basic garden tips.

After the initial spring clean-up, examine the trees and shrubs for winter damage.  More likely than not the snow and wind has broken a few branches.  Start with those, prune any damaged trees & shrubs and remove any hanging limbs. 

Once the winter damage is fixed move on to the perennial gardens.  Start by cultivating the soil; loosen it up to allow nutrients to reach the deeper roots. Be sure not to cultivate directly next to the plants, just the spaces in between.  Add to the gardens a general slow release fertilizer for a prolonged feeding.  Look for areas in your garden which are bare and begin planning which annuals you’d like to use.  When working the perennial garden in the spring tread lightly, you don’t want to crush new shoots coming up through the soil.

Planting the Annuals

In late mid to late spring, when there is no chance of frost, plant your annuals.  For best effect, I plant them in large massings.  When preparing the garden, dig up an area turn over the soil and mix in some peat moss and compost.  As you plant the annuals loosen their roots, being in pots can constrict root growth.  Often the roots will be growing in circles.  Loosening them up encourage healthy growth.  Add a small handful of slow release fertilizer as you plant as well.  Spring a great time to divide perennials that have for their spot.  Adding light mulch, such as buckwheat hulls, to perennial beds, herb gardens and annuals keeps weeds at bay and helps the soil hold moisture.

Pruning roses in the spring is critical their health.  You’ll want to cut back the dead or damaged branches.  Wait until the buds are red and swelling, this with help in your decision of where to prune on the stem.  Choose spots just above outward facing buds to avoid crisscrossing branches and to allow air flow through the center of the rose.  Other shrubs to prune now are established evergreens and those shrubs which bloom after mid-summer.

Planting New Shrubs

Spring is an ideal time to plant new shrubs.  When planting new shrubs you’ll need to add a mix of compost and peat moss to the soil.  This will give the plant plenty of nutrients as well as the soil ability to retain the water.  Dig a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep.  Place the shrub in the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball matches the existing grade of the garden.  Never install any plant below grade, its always detrimental to the health of the plant. Backfill with a mix of the existing soil and compost.  Water well to remove air pockets. 

After the new plantings are installed, spread bark mulch to the depth of about 2” to 3” in all your shrub beds.  A fresh layer of mulch each season will help garden soil retain its moisture and help reduce weed growth. 

Take a walk around the lawn to see if there are any thin spots.  Spring, as well as the fall, is a great time to fix up the lawn.  There two ways to go about patching your lawn.  Loosen up the soil in the thin spots, grade it and smooth it out.  Add the appropriate seed then take a metal leaf rake turn it upside down and gently pull it across the area.  This will bury the seed just slightly creating optimal conditions for germination.  The other option requires renting a machine called slice-seeder; this does basically the same thing.  You run it across the lawn, as you go the machine slices the soil and drops seed in the crevasses.  It’s a great time saver for larger areas.  Be sure to water and keep the soil somewhat moist.