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Preparing Your Garden for Spring: Tips for a Successful Clean-Up

Updated: Feb 12

Early spring is a thrilling time for gardeners, signaling the end of winter and the eagerly anticipated start of the gardening season. As we bid farewell to winter's grip, it's time to ready our yards and beds for the vibrant season ahead. This gardening checklist provides essential tips for a successful spring clean-up, ensuring that your gardens flourish all season long!

Snowdrops emerging from garden / mulch / bulbs / spring
Photo by Martha Stewart

A Considerate Start to Spring

While the recent warmer weather might tempt you to commence your spring clean-up early, it's essential to exercise patience for the sake of our winged friends. Butterflies, pollinators, and other beneficial insects often overwinter in the cozy nooks of dead leaves and hollowed-out stems from last year's plants. Disturbing these habitats prematurely can disrupt their delicate life cycles. We recommend waiting until temperatures consistently reach above 10°C or 50°F before embarking on your spring gardening endeavors.

Clear Away Debris

Begin by gently removing any debris, fallen branches, and dead leaves that have accumulated over the winter months. This clears the way for new growth and prevents the buildup of mold and pests.

Inspect and Replace

Take a thorough inventory of your garden to identify any plants that may not have survived the winter. Make a note of these and plan to replace them with suitable alternatives to maintain the overall aesthetics of your garden.

Edge and Mulch

When the soil is moist in spring, cutting an edge around your garden beds becomes much easier. Spring is also an excellent time to top dress your garden with compost or manure and apply the first layer of mulch for added nourishment and moisture retention. Remember to edge before mulching to prevent trimmings from accumulating on top of the mulch.

Remove Burlap Wraps

If you've used burlap wraps to protect plants during the winter, be sure to remove them once the weather permits. This allows plants to fully benefit from the increasing sunlight and warmth of spring.

Fertilize Evergreens

Give your evergreens a boost by fertilizing them with a complete fertilizer high in nitrogen in early to mid-April. This helps promote lush green foliage and vigorous growth throughout the growing season.

Divide Perennials

Spring presents an excellent opportunity to divide perennial roots. With moist soil, minimal foliage, and energetic root systems, perennials have the entire season to recover and thrive.

Daylily / Splitting / St. Thomas / Port Stanley / Spring
Photo by Better Homes & Gardens

Prune and Clip

Evergreen & Semi-Evergreen Perennials & Grasses

For evergreen and semi-evergreen perennials and grasses, a light tidying of their leaves is typically all that's needed in the spring. Remove any dead or damaged foliage to freshen up their appearance and encourage new growth. Examples include: Heuchera, Iris, Helleborus, Carex, Festuca, and Ophiopogon.

Woody Perennials

Waiting until the spring to prune woody perennials reduces the chance of winter kill. Typically, it's recommended to leave approximately 6 inches of woody stem at the base to allow new buds to emerge. Cutting them too close to the ground can inadvertently cause these plants to die. Examples include: Hypericum, Artemesia, Lavender, Caryopteris, and Buddleia.

Herbaceous Perennials for the Birds

Certain perennials, such as Rudbeckia, Echinacea, and Solidago, offer valuable winter food sources for birds and can be left untouched until spring. These plants produce seed heads that persist through the winter months, providing essential sustenance for birds during periods of scarcity. By leaving these perennials intact, you not only support local bird populations but also add visual interest to your winter garden landscape!

Coneflower / Black Eyed Susan / Bird / Wildlife / Goldfinch
Photo by RSPB

Lawn Care Tasks

To ensure a lush and vibrant lawn throughout the season, tackle these essential tasks in spring:

  • Lightly rake with a fan rake to remove winter debris and thatch, allowing your grass to breathe and absorb nutrients effectively.

  • If needed, top-dress with quality compost to enrich the soil, then overseed to promote thick, healthy growth.

  • Fill any bare patches with soil and seed the area by hand, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact for optimal germination.

  • Choose a fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen to provide long-lasting nutrition for your lawn. A single application should sustain your grass well into the summer months.

By following these essential spring clean-up tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a beautiful and thriving garden that you can enjoy all season long. Remember, proper preparation now sets the stage for a successful growing season ahead. Happy gardening from Kettle Creek Landscaping!

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