Early spring is actually the ideal time to get started on garden and landscape maintenance. Whether your goal is to work on your own landscape or you’re planning to offer early spring maintenance services to your clients, here are some of the things you can do now to set you, or your clients, up on the path to a fruitful bloom when the warmer weather hits.
When the ground is still frozen:
Tend to garden structure: Maintenance tasks regarding garden structure are best addressed now, rather than in the busier spring and summer months. The first thing you can do when the bitterly cold temperatures disappear and the snow begins to recede is tend to your garden arbors or other ornamental pieces. Repair and repaint any trellises, lattices or arbors that hold plant vines or plant materials. Be sure to repair any holes, loose pockets or gaps, as well as any loose nails.
Repair stacked stone walls: natural dry-stacked stones often shift with the cold temperatures, heavy snow and ice. Not only does it result in a less-than aesthetically pleasing look, but it can create hazards, especially for young children playing in the yard. Now is the perfect time to reposition the stones and stabilize the border for a safer, more beautiful look.
Remove dead wood and debris from trees and shrubs: go through and clean up any remaining mess left over from the fall.
Prune trees and shrubs: look at trees and shrubs from different angles, try tying twine to branches you plan on pruning to see how it will look when finished.
Inspect and touch up mulch: inspect the mulch left over from the fall. With the melting snow and winds, chances are your mulch has washed off and greatly reduced in depth. You want to make sure your mulch is at least two-inches thick. Cover the soil surrounding your plants with more organic compost matter and mulch (this might include leaves, wood chips, pine needles, bark, etc.). The mulch will prevent the spring and summer sun’s harsh rays from sucking the water out of the soil, leaving your plants constantly thirsty.
Remove pests and fix problems caused by pets: inspect birdhouses for pests, clean out debris, scrub the outside exterior and make sure they’re firmly mounted in the ground. Check gardens for tunnels or mounds of dirt made by burrowing animals, such as gophers and moles. Depending on how hard the soil is, break up the mounds of dirt and level it out by raking the soil. If the tunnels and mounds are on your lawn, they too should be leveled with a rake to prevent any safety hazards. Once leveled, the exposed soil can be re-seeded if needed.
Inspect spring flowering bulbs: while it is normal for early spring blooming bulbs to turn brown, due to the extreme changes in temperature, it is a good time to take note of where the bulbs are so you know where to plant your perennials and annuals.
Clean tools: sharpen and clean tools and scrape off any excess mud and dirt; consider soaking the tools in warm water if the dirt is caked on hard. Use steel wool to remove any rust. Sand any rough edges on wooden handles and spray metal parts with conditioning oil. Store tools in a dry, safe spot.
When the ground thaws up:
Remove protective winter covers: remove covers from evergreens and durable shrubs and plants. Leave winter covers on flower beds until the temperatures are consistently warmer.
Dig and aerate soil: assess the soil and act accordingly. If the soil is wet, wait until it dries out a bit before you disturb it.
Fertilize trees and shrubs: with all the rain in the spring, the nutrients will be easily carried down to the roots of the plants
Plant new trees and shrubs: wait until the weather is consistently warmer before you get started.
Harden off seedlings that were grown in greenhouses: before the weather warms up, it’s a good idea to pre-germinate your seeds, which will help them grow better, saving you time and money. You can do this by putting your seeds in a jar of water to soak. Pre-germinated seeds will need to be watered well once they are planted. Now is also a good time to harden off the seedlings that were grown in greenhouses over the winter months.
Cut back ornamental grasses: Trim new shoots and get rid of dead material in the garden.
…and if you’re still itching to garden, vegetables like carrots, peas, spinach and lettuce do well with the cool weather. Also, bachelor’s buttons and poppies are annuals that actually prefer to cooler weather.