Spring is around the corner, and everyone is ready to enjoy being outdoors again. Beautiful tulip and daffodil bulbs are starting to bloom and the grass is turning green again. Flowering bushes like azaleas and forsythia are budding out. It makes us feel energized and ready to go. There are plenty of tasks to keep us busy outdoors, but remember to use caution. Unless you have kept up an active exercise program throughout the winter, you’ll be using muscles that have remained as dormant as your perennials. Don’t overdo it those first few days. Read on for 12 landscaping tasks to do in the spring.
- Start with a thorough clean-up. After a long winter, start with a general clean-up. Pick up any fallen twigs, pine cones and dried leaves that blew into your yard after you raked leaves in the fall. Then, assess the condition of your lawn. A deep raking can prevent the buildup of thatch in your lawn. Thatch is composed of mostly dead grass and, when compacted, it can prevent air and even water from getting to the green grass root system. If your lawn has a thick layer of thatch, it will need to be dethatched. Some larger mowers have an attachment for this purpose. The dethatcher will cut out small plugs from the lawn and deposit them on top to be raked away. This will allow air and water, as well as compost or fertilizers, to access the roots of your grass for a healthier lawn. Spring is also a good time to fill in bare spots in the lawn with grass seed.
- Start edging your lawn. Lawn edging brings your landscaping up a notch. It gives the impression of being well-kept and maintained. Edge along the sidewalks, driveway and garden beds for a clean, crisp look. Edgers can be manual or gas-powered.
- Prune your plants. Now that the lawn is taken care of, move on to plants. Examine them for any broken or dead branches and remove them. Spring is also a good time to prune any wayward branches to keep your shrubs neat and well-shaped. The exception to this is spring-flowering bushes like lilacs or forsythia. If you prune them now, you will remove all the flower buds. Wait to prune spring-blooming plants until after they finish blooming. Shrubs that don’t bloom until summer can be safely pruned in spring since the flower buds form on new growth.
- Remove winter protection. If you used burlap barriers to shield your evergreens from windburn or to protect your roses from temperature fluctuations, they can be removed. Gradually pull back the layers of mulch used to protect more cold-sensitive perennials. Replace the mulch temporarily if there is a random cold spell predicted.
- Clean up garden beds. Remove any dead material from last year’s growth. Many gardeners like to leave the seed heads of plants like coneflowers for birds to feed on in winter. Some also leave dry grasses through the winter. The dry material can now be removed to make room for new growth.
- Divide perennials. If you have a perennial bed, spring is the best time to divide plants that are expanding beyond the space allotted to them. Move divisions to other areas of the garden bed or gift them to other gardeners. Now that you have more room, you might find a new plant to add to your perennial bed.
- Apply compost. While you are working in the perennial bed, this is a good time to apply a side dressing of compost. Unlike chemical fertilizers, which can burn your plants if they come in contact with it, compost won’t hurt them. Compost is nutrient-rich and will give your plants a great start to the growing season. Compost is great for your trees and shrubs as well and can even be spread over your lawn. The biggest problem with compost is there is never enough.
- Plant new trees and shrubs. Spring is the best time to plant additional trees and shrubs in your landscape. The temperatures are still cool enough and it’s rainy enough to not stress your plant while it settles into its new environment and grows roots.
- Add mulch to your beds. Mulch is like frosting on a cake. It is functional and helps your plant beds look well-groomed. Mulch visually connects a variety of plants into one garden. It works like a backdrop for the plants, allowing the colors of the leaves and flowers to stand out against it as the primary focus. It holds in moisture for the plants and keeps them clean. It also helps suppress weed growth.
- Repurpose cover crops. If you planted a cover crop in the fall, this is the time to dig it under. Cover crops are used to protect bare soil from erosion in the winter. It also is used to amend the soil with nutrients. Cover crops are used primarily in vegetable gardens, but also for new gardens dug in the fall for planting in the spring. Cover crops should be mowed first. Depending on what type of cover crop you planted and how tall it is, you may have to mow in steps with your mower at the highest setting for the first pass and then gradually lowering the blade until you are mowing at ground level. Once the cover crop is finely chopped, it should be combined with other amendments like compost and then dug or tilled into the soil.
- Incorporate new water features. The last task for spring is to set up your water features. This should not be done until you are past your last freeze date for your area. Freezing water can damage your pump, freeze pipes and crack stone. If you want to provide water for the birds migrating in your area, invest in a heater made exclusively for birdbaths. They are safe for the birds and protect your birdbath from freezing.
- Replace outdoor lights. We all know that days are shorter during the winter; therefore, it gets darker quicker. That means your outdoor lights probably get a lot of use to illuminate your lawn during the cold months. When spring is around the corner, consider updating and replacing outdoor lighting. This is a great way to refresh your outdoor space for the new season, too!
Once you’ve finished all this work, it’s time to pull out the cushions for your patio furniture and take a well-deserved break. Enjoy the views of your freshly landscaped garden as it blossoms for the year.