By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners
After being holed up indoors for much of the winter, there is nothing we want more than to get our hands into some dirt. The first sign of returning life in the garden makes our heart skip a beat (even if that little bit of green is a weed!) It’s tempting to get out into the garden too early in the season, but there are some tasks we can check off the list while we wait for spring to arrive in earnest.
You’ll want to be ready to hit the ground running when it is time to shop and you are ready to plant, so now is the time to firm up your garden plans.
Which veggie varieties will you grow this year? Plotting it out and making a list before you shop will help you be more realistic about how many tomatoes you can really fit into your small raised bed.
What will the color theme be for your patio pots? Selecting two or three colors and sticking to a palette will help your space feel more cohesive and well-designed this summer. This container garden recipe search is full of fun ideas.
Planning a new garden bed? Sometimes, the hardest part is figuring out which plants will grow well together, not to mention how to arrange them once you get them home. The Perfect Plant Pairings interactive design tool will help you find perennials and shrubs that suit your growing environment and garden style.
If some of the plants in your existing landscape just aren’t living up to your expectations, consider replacing them. Why look out the window every day to see plants you don’t really like when there are endless alternatives? Start with these award-winning plants to spruce the place up this season.
Early spring is a good time to clean up any branches damaged by ice and snow.
2. Survey the garden for winter damage
Early spring isn’t a good time to be working in garden beds and disturbing the soil, but you can use this time to survey the state of the garden. Look to see if winter ice and snow have damaged any of your woody plants. Have any significant limbs fallen from your trees? Are there any broken branches on your shrubs? Anything damaged from winter can be cleaned up now.
Survey your lawn, too. Does it feel squishy when you walk? You might have moles. Are there inch-wide holes made by voles in your garden beds? Research and implement methods to eradicate these pests from your garden now before you begin planting.
Spring is a good time to establish a new evergreen privacy hedge like this one featuring Gin Fizz® junipers and ‘American Pillar’ arborvitaes.
3. Decide where you need more evergreens and spring blooming plants
While you are outside surveying the garden in early spring before all of your plants leaf out, look around to see where you could use more evergreens. If you can see clear through into your neighbor’s living room, a taller evergreen screen of arborvitaes, junipers or false cypress can offer you both some privacy.
Now is also the perfect time to decide whether or not you need more spring color in the garden. Take a walk and see what’s blooming in your neighborhood. Forsythia, loropetalum, lilacs and pussy willow are just a few shrubs that ring in the new season with colorful and interesting blooms. A grouping of flowering broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons, azaleas or lily of the valley shrub (Pieris) can offer both a bit of screening and cheerful spring color. While you are at it, add a reminder to your calendar for early summer when it will be time to order spring blooming bulbs for fall planting.
Before you fill your containers with Supertunia® petunias this spring, be sure to sanitize your pots to eliminate any lingering pests or diseases. Photo courtesy of C3 Gardens.
4. Prep your pots and tools
Though it may be too early to be planting up your containers, you’ll want to be ready to hit the ground running once warmer weather arrives. Start by hauling out your patio containers and giving them a good scrub with a 10% bleach and soapy water solution. That will kill off any harmful bacteria that might be lingering from last year. If you are using self-watering AquaPots®, disassemble the mechanism inside and clean it all thoroughly.
Clean and sharpen your garden tools before you begin using them again. Scrub away any rust that may have developed over the winter using a wire brush or steel wool. If soapy water isn’t sufficient for removing any built-up grime or sap, try a product like Goo Gone which will easily remove any sticky residue. Sharpen the blades of your pruners, hedge shears, hoe and the tip of your spade. Lastly, sanitize your tools with a spray of diluted bleach or 70% isopropyl alcohol.
Remember to order a durable Twist ‘n Plant® auger to make planting your new potted plants and bulbs fun this season. It’s especially helpful if your soil is hard to dig into with a traditional spade since this tool does all the work for you. Three sizes are available depending on your project. They are all made in the USA and carry a lifetime guarantee.
Visit your local garden centers as soon as they open this spring to find everything you need to complete your garden plans. Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD will be fully stocked with Proven Winners.
5. Shop early this year
A confluence of factors including greater than ever demand for gardening products and troubles with manufacturing and distribution will mean, especially this year, if you don’t shop early you may not find what you are looking for. Just as you may have had trouble finding paper towels or a certain cut of meat at your local grocery store in the last year, you may also find yourself wanting for seeds, potting soil, fertilizer and plants.
Make a plan now for which garden centers you will visit as soon as they open their doors this spring. This locator tool will help you find stores nearby. Don’t wait to buy what you need or someone else will beat you to it.
Want more ideas for what you can be doing in your garden this spring to get it off to a great start? Check out this article.