There’s a lot that can be done in your yard this time of year. Now is a great opportunity to take advantage of the cool temperatures, occasional sunshine, and yes, even the rain! Once you’ve walked around your property to take in the signs of renewed life and dream about this year’s projects, you can start getting things ready for the summer. Spring cleaning your landscape can include activities such as pruning, removing debris, pulling weeds, dividing perennials, testing the soil, applying compost and fertilizers, and seeding the lawn.
Now is the time to prune your fruit trees if you didn't during the winter and if the buds haven’t opened yet. Pruning after buds break will stress the trees. For all trees and shrubs, pruning out any winter-killed branches is an easy place to start. Wait for spring bloomers such as lilacs and forsythia until after they have bloomed. Only prune up to 1/3 of living branches in a season to avoid stressing woody perennials.
Cut back last year’s growth from non-woody perennials once you see new growth at the base of the plants. You want to get to them before their new growth gets too tall to easily do this. Ornamental grasses can be cut back within a few inches from ground whether you see new growth yet or not.
Remove debris from garden beds such as winter mulch, leaves, sticks, and last year’s annuals. Add this to your compost pile and set aside any extra materials for layering between your kitchen scraps throughout the summer.
Get a leg-up on early blooming weeds such as dandelions by pulling them now while the foliage is visible and the soil is wet. A long, narrow spade gives good leverage on deep tap roots.
Digging up and dividing perennials that you want to relocate is easily done in the spring because there is little top growth to be careful of and the weather is on your side. Roots are less likely to dry out when transplanting during cool, wet weather. This will reduce plant stress. We still recommend applying a water-soluble root stimulator when transplanting.
If growth seemed a little off last year, you might consider conducting an at-home soil test to determine what amendments could be needed. Soil tests can reveal PH imbalances and deficiencies in the major nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK).
Many plants like a good feeding to fuel their spring growth spurt. Spread 1-2 inches of compost in garden beds to replenish both the lost nutrients and the organic matter vital for soil health and root growth. Be careful of using hot manures like chicken which can burn plants with its high ammonia content. You can also apply a slow-release organic fertilizer.
Grass seed takes daily watering to establish, so it’s smart to take advantage of the spring rains and get some help with the task. You can begin sowing grass seed once the forsythia starts blooming. Before seeding, prepare the area by pulling weeds and aerating to loosen compacted soil. Do not apply herbicides for weed control to areas you plan to seed because this will harm the grass seeds and sprouts as well. Fertilize while seeding and also feed already established lawn areas.