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Spring Gardening Tips

Martha Stewart Living, March 1996

Follow the 10 tips outlined below for a welcoming garden that's filled with color and fragrance -- and song.

Survey the Yard
Make note of tree limbs that should be removed or cabled, especially those that overhang structures. Hire an arborist to maintain large trees.Cut down last year's perennial foliage, and toss it into the compost pile. Rake mulch from beds planted with bulbs before foliage appears, and refresh mulch in other planting areas after soil warms. Check fences, steps, and pathways for disrepair caused by freezing and thawing.

Order Tools and Plants
Tune up tools so everything is ready when things start growing. Make note of what is missing, and order tools for the new growing season. Choose new plants for the garden. Order perennials, trees, and shrubs for spring planting.

Get Ready to Mow
Send the mower and leaf blower for servicing, or if you have the right tools, sharpen the mower blades yourself. Refill your mower with oil, install fresh spark plugs, and lubricate moving parts if necessary. Clear the lawn of winter debris, and look for areas that need reseeding before mowing.

Prune Trees and Shrubs
Remove dead, damaged, and diseased branches from woody plants. Thin and trim summer-blooming shrubs such as butterfly bush, hydrangea, and most roses, except for old-fashioned once bloomers. Prune cold-damaged wood after plants resume spring growth. Prune spring-blooming shrubs and trees after flowering.

Take a Soil Test
Check soil pH with a home soil- test kit, taking several samples from different planting areas for an accurate reading. Enrich soil as necessary: Add dolomitic lime to raise the pH or elemental sulfur to lower the pH.

Prepare New Beds
Clear the planting area as soon as soil can be worked, removing sod or weeds and debris. Spread a 4-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure and any amendments over soil, and cultivate it to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spading fork.

Plant bare-root trees, shrubs, and perennials such as hostas and daylilies by early spring. Choose a cool, cloudy day if possible. Transplant container-grown plants anytime during the growing season except midsummer; be sure to water them thoroughly. Sow seeds of cool-season flowers like sweet peas, poppies, and calendula, and vegetables such as lettuce, parsley, and spinach.

Apply balanced fertilizer (6-6-6 or 8-8-8), fish emulsion, or other soil amendments recommended by soil-test results around trees and shrubs when new growth appears. Spread high-acid fertilizer and pine-needle mulch around acid-loving shrubs like azaleas and camellias. Begin fertilizing perennials when active growth resumes.

Start a Compost Pile
Start a compost pile, or use a compost bin, if you don't have one already. Begin by collecting plant debris and leaves raked up from the garden. Chop these up first to speed decomposition. Add equal amounts "brown" (carbon-rich) materials like dried leaves and straw and "green" (nitrogen-rich) materials like grass clippings and weeds in even layers with water and a compost bioactivator. Turn regularly. Continue adding to the pile throughout the season for rich, homemade compost next spring.

Clean Bird Feeders and Baths
Disinfect the feeders by scrubbing with weak bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach: 2 gallons warm water). Rinse and dry the feeders thoroughly before refilling them.Scrub birdbaths with bleach solution, then rinse them thoroughly and refill, changing water weekly. Clean birdbaths and feeders regularly throughout the season.

Comments (12)

  • Catherine_S 15 Jan, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post! I can't wait to try out these gardening tips. When it comes to dealing with unwanted pests in my garden or home, I like to hire a pest control company to take care of things.


  • Catherine_S 15 Jan, 2014

    Great post! This is the pest control company I use and highly recommend. They always get the job done.

  • Suthap Klomrod 5 Jun, 2013

    "Successful Home Gardening" is a book written
    by someone with a Master of Science degree
    from the University of California, Davis, who
    also has a lot of common sense and years of
    practical in-the-garden experience experimenting
    with all kinds of crops and strategies.

  • WillMaudsley 24 Apr, 2013

    Thanks for posting this article, I've learn lots something new when I am reading. I use

  • Dedetizadora Desentupidora 3 Dec, 2012

    Good tips, I'll wait for the time to put them into practice.

    A beautiful garden is all good, behind the joy, peace and love. I love plants.

    Thank you,

  • GregClt458 12 Apr, 2012

    I love gardening in the spring and can't wait to put your tips to use. I'm probably most excited about soil testing, which I've never done before. I'm least excited about dealing with bugs, but this year I'm hiring a pest control company to try to take care of things for me.

  • SamGerald 12 Dec, 2011

    Great advice for springtime gardening. If you're looking for help with some of the pests that can invade your garden during the spring or any other season, this pest control site can help with that.

  • SamGerald 12 Dec, 2011

    Great advice for springtime gardening. If you're looking for help with some of the pests that can invade your garden during the spring or any other season, this site can help with that.

  • veer 4 Aug, 2010

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  • veer 4 Aug, 2010

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  • peaceandlight 28 Mar, 2008

    Bulbs store well in a medium such as sand, vermiculite, or peat moss. They can also be hung up in a mesh bag in a cool dark place. If they need to be separated, wait until planting time.

    The general rule is to plant the bulb in a [filtered word] twice as deep as the bulb's length. If soil is sandy, plant a little deeper. For clay soil, dig a slightly shallower [filtered word]. Choose an area that drains well. Put a little bone meal or bulb nutrient at the bottom of the [filtered word] before placing the bulb root-down.

  • jenniferservello 27 Mar, 2008

    I bought a small planter with daffodils and hyacinths, what do I do with the bulbs until it's time for planting in the fall? what is the proper way to plant bulbs?
    Jennifer Servello- Thank You