Spring Gardening Checklist: cleaning up, clearing out and starting fresh!

After a winter that seemed to stretch on forever, spring has finally arrived! Here’s our spring gardening checklist to shake off those winter blues:


One of the first things many people like to do in the spring is prep their raised beds! There’s just something about seeing that rich, freshly turned soil that screams ‘Summer’! If you planted a green manure crop in the fall, be sure to till it into the soil along with any nutrients the soil may require. If you prefer the ‘no till’ method, simply plant your seeds or seedlings in between the cover crop debris, as the seedling root systems will break the cover crop debris apart over time. Make sure that you incorporate your nutrients into the soil at least two weeks before planting, and also check that your soil is at the appropriate temperature before planting. Soil should be loose and fluffy, so avoid compacting the soil by stepping on it or pressing your hands into it. Also check to see that all corners of the beds are still firmly together, and that no screws or nails have come loose. Doing any construction repairs after seedlings have been planted can disturb the root systems.


As a general rule, any tools you use in the garden should be rinsed off before being put away, to keep diseases, fungi, insect eggs and weed seeds from being spread to other part of your yard. By removing the soil, you are also preventing the tools from rusting. If you haven’t been keeping up with cleaning your tools, and they’re a little rusty… now would be the time to shine them up! Use one quart of nondetergent (for it’s anti-corrosion properties) 30W motor oil (any brand will do) with a pint of kerosene or lamp oil (a 2:1 ratio) and rub the metal of your tools down with a thin layer. The motor oil will keep the metal from oxidizing any further. If your tools are rusted beyond being able to wiped clean, you may want to sand the rust away. Try using a sheet of 80-grit sandpaper to remove light amounts of rust. For a slightly heavier coat of rust, a stiff wire brush can be effective. If your tool is corroded and pitted with rust, you may want to try using an electric drill with a wire brush attachment to get rid of the thick layer. Once your tools are rid of rust, apply the thin layer of motor oil mixture to keep them rust free. Tools like shovels, axes, hoes, and trowels also benefit from being sharpened with a hand file. Sharper tools like pruning shears and knifes will need something a little more involved, like honing stone or high speed grinding stone, depending on how sharp of an edge you’re looking for.


Check out our blog post on composting here! Make sure to remove your finished compost and spread it on your gardens in order to make room for all the compost you’ll make over the summer!


There is quite a bit of discussion regarding whether you should till your soil or not. Speaking generally, it is best to incorporate organic matter (compost) into your soil if it is not rich enough with nutrients to sustain plant life. Once your soil has reached a desirable texture, you can use ‘top dressing’ as an alternative to tilling… which is heaping fully mature compost on top of your soil without mixing it in, and covering it with a mulch of some sort.


Check out our blog post on dividing perennials here!


After a long winter and lots of melting this spring, chances are that your mulch will have decomposed a bit, or been washed away. Now is a great time to touch your mulch up! Use a metal rake to fluff up the mulch that remains, and then add new so that it reaches a level of about 2 inches (3-4 inches for southern gardeners is okay as well). Check out our full post on mulching here!


Check out our blog post on seed starting here! Don’t forget to HARDEN OFF all homegrown vegetable seedlings before transplanting; putting them outside during the day and bringing them inside at night for a week before planting them in the ground.


Some veggies are cool weather tolerant, and can be planted directly into the garden during the spring without needing to be germinated indoors! Arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, and turnips are a few of your options. Most vegetables need about 7 to 8 hours of full sun daily. Cool season vegetables can manage with 6 hours, and some can even be planted in partial shade.


The spring thaw can leave your plants looking a little rough and tough around the edges, so you’ll want to prune them back to be nice and fresh! Ornamental grasses should be pruned back to 4-6 inches. As a general rule for most flowering bushes and fruit trees, you’ll want to prune back any dead or weak/diseased growth, and you’ll want to trim and shape the live growth after it’s done flowering. Avoid top pruning, as most flowering bushes produce buds on year old growth. Summer blooming plants should be pruned in early spring or in winter, to prevent stunting flowering, as they produce flowers on current year’s growth.

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