Although the term “early spring” for me in Zone 6 Ohio may not be the same time as the “early spring” for your garden zone, for this article, early spring means that time of year when winter seems to be coming to an end and intermittent freezes and thaws are happening in the garden. The first signs of Spring!
Since mid Spring in my garden is ridiculously busy, I like to get as many chores completed and out of the way as I can before the mid-spring onslaught hits.
Here are my picks for the top 15 early spring chores to do in the garden.
1. Keep an Eye on the Forecast
As I work through these early spring chores, I keep an eye on the daily weather forecast in case I need to protect a plant from those late freezes that always seem to occur. I’ve found that old sheets, towels, and layers of newspaper are the best options for protection.
DO NOT cover tender plants with plastic tarps. The plastic touching the newly emerging buds and foliage will damage the plant, not protect it. And remember to remove any coverings as soon as it gets sunny as it can heat up under there quickly.
2. Get the Shed in Order
My shed is overpacked all winter with all my garden and yard supplies as well as those fun projects that I did or didn’t get to
A good cleaning and organizing of my shed now will save me a lot of time hunting for things later.
3. Inventory any Needed Supplies
Some of the more important things I like to check for are:
- Bags of Potting Soil
- Fertilizers and Soil Amendments
- Slug and Grub Treatment
- Bleach for Sterilizing Tools
- Twine, Stakes
- Garden Shoes/Muck Boots
Buy what you need now.
- Garden Gloves ( I always have lots of left-hand ones!)
4. Clean Garden Tools
- Shovels, loppers, snippers, pruning sheers.
- Basic tool cleaning includes first scrubbing and rinsing off the tools and letting them completely dry.
- Use steel wool to remove rust from metal parts.
- Smooth worn wooden handles with a medium grade sandpaper and wipe down.
- Use a metal file to sharpen blades.
- Apply lubricating oil to both wooden handles and metal blades.
- Wipe off excess.
5. Clean Garden Accessories
I am in love with planters. I have them all around my garden. I check to see if any planters need repair or replacement.
- Terracotta planters sometimes need some extra attention. For an article on cleaning terracotta pots, click here.
- Ceramic planters stay in the shed until all danger of frost has passed. (Learned that one the hard way.)
- For the planters that still have plants in them that I store in the shed for winter protection, once the plants begin to come out of their winter sleep, I give them a bit of water and begin to give them some sun in short spurts.
While I’m working with my planters, I freshen up last year’s soil in the planters. For our article on how to freshen up and use last year’s potting soil, click here.
Bird Baths and Bird Feeders
Next to my plants, I mostly love my feathery friends! For our article on cleaning birdbaths, birdhouses and bird feeders, click here.
6. Check Garden Equipment
Check all mechanical equipment like weed eaters, hedge trimmers, etc.
Lawnmower. I send out the lawnmower for maintenance every spring. I’m no mechanic so it’s worth it to me.
Check tires on garden wagons and wheel barrels.
7. General Garden Clean Up
There’s always some debris lying around the garden after the winter months. We have several senior rescue dogs that leave us plenty of “debris,” so the whole space needs a good cleanup from weeks where we haven’t been able to get outside.
Trim low-hanging tree branches or branches overreaching into a garden area.
Remove plant coverings like the mulch put on for winter protection as temperatures rise and plant tips emerge from the ground., If not removed in early spring, stems will be tender and weak.
Allow the air and sunshine to reach these tips while young for healthy and stocky plants.
If temperatures drop dramatically after removing covers, emerging growth can be covered temporarily.
Damage doesn’t usually occur unless temps go below 10 degrees.
Dead leaves can be raked into a big pile. I like to have the grandkids over for some fun in the leaves, then I will pile the leaves in my leaf mold area.
You don’t have a specific area for your leaves to make leaf mold for your garden? It’s time to make one.
To learn about the benefits of using leaf mold in the garden, click here. It’s truly a free and very valuable resource!
Drip Watering System. Set up if stored over the winter. I prefer the drip hoses as I can easily move them around the garden as needed.
Clean out rain barrel filters and open the rain barrels up to receive water. Add two tablespoons of bleach to disinfect any stagnant water.
8. Check All Garden Hardscapes
Raised Garden Beds
If you have wooden raised garden beds, inspect the wood for any spots that are bowed, rotted or just shifted with the temperature changes. Freshen them up as needed with a fresh coat of stain, sealant or paint when temperatures allow.
This is also a great time to expand and build more raised garden beds! ! Let’s face it. No gardener ever wished for less planting space!
If you have paths between raised beds or garden spots that give you particular trouble with weeds, rake up the mulch there and place some black plastic underneath and cover again with mulch. This usually lasts me for two to three years before I need to remulch.
Level out any edging, stones or pavers that heaved up during the winter.
Fill in with gravel any graveled areas that have thinned out.
Chores for when the Soil Warms
Sorry, but getting those weeds out of the beds early can save you valuable time later. Get them at the root or else they’ll be back with a vengeance.
10. Set up your plant supports
If you grow peonies, delphiniums, or any other perennials that require support, set the supports in the ground now or as soon as you can see where they go. This will be harder to do once the plant’s leaves have unfurled.
11 Give your soil some Love
Check for drainage.
Winter’s soggy weather is a great time to make sure your soil is draining well. If not, the excess water could rot the roots of your plants later on.
You can lighten soil that doesn’t drain by mixing in organic matter like peat moss, earthworm castings, compost or leaf mold.
Over the winter garden soil can become hard and compacted robbing the soil of its nutrients and its moisture retention properties. Nourish the soil by adding a few inches of compost from your compost pile, then rake the soil level and water it lightly to help it settle and release air pockets.
Don’t have a compost pile? It’s time to make one. For our article on all things composting, click here.
Which fertilizers you use to amend your soil depends on what you’re growing. Have a good fertilizing plan in place.
For early emerging perennials, an extra layer of mulch mounded around the base will provide them with some early protection from late cold spurts and later help in keeping down the weeds.
13. Early Pruning
The subject of pruning plants is a subject that books have been written about. Have a good plant-specific plan in place.
14. Dividing/transplanting perennials and shrubs
As a general rule, it’s recommended to divide or move perennials in the opposite season of when they bloom. That means moving summer and fall blooming perennials in spring, and spring blooming perennials in fall. This avoids disrupting their bloom cycle.
Evergreen shrubs can be moved in early spring before their new growth appears or in early fall to give them enough time to re-establish their roots before winter.
15. Create a Comfy Space to Enjoy your Garden
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. If you don’t already have a special spot, design one now. It’s well worth the effort. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A few comfy chairs in a nice shady area where you can look over your accomplishments or read a good garden book is perfect.
So those are my tips for early spring chores. I hope you’ve found my list helpful.