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Spring Garden Checklist

Spring Cleanup in the garden can be fun and inspirational but it is hard work too, especially if we have been kind of a couch potato over the winter.  So here are some easy to follow steps to save your back and your time by making this process as efficient and pain-free as possible. 

Spring Cleanup Like a Pro

A Free easy to follow Do It Like a Pro Guide to Spring Clean up.

Make a Plan

Yes, I know it sounds pretty basic but in our eagerness to get outside and start moving after a long winter we often forget to plan our attack and end up wasting time, effort and sometimes money.  So make a work plan. 

writing
Naturalized Lawn

Stay Focused

We don’t want to get bogged down right now with all your great ideas and plans for the season; concentrate on cleaning up and getting things ready to grow.  After you can take a look and decide on which of your ideas will make the most sense to implement.

Divide the Work into Manageable Clumps

Break your plan down into manageable bites.  You know the limit of your time, attention and physical effort.  Plan within that.  If it is 15 minutes, then divide the work into sections that can be done in that time.  If you have more time or feel like doing more, you can always do another section or 2.

garden work
rake icon

Get the Right Tools, in Good Repair 

Make sure you have the tools you need to do the work and they are in good condition.  It is so frustrating to be on a roll and find out that someone hid the spade or the fork or the head of the rake is so loose that it is useless.  A trip to the store just means you’ll be distracted and have to push yourself to get back at it. 

Keep Them Sharp

 Tools need to be sharp.  Your hand clippers, spade, shovel, trowel and weed digger need to have a good edge.  Usually, you can do this with a sharpening stone, if you don’t have a grinder.   Just follow the angle that is already on the tool.  There are lots of inexpensive pocket sharpeners to help keep an edge on busy days.  If the edge is too damaged for a hand stone, a grinder is needed to take out nicks or you could consider a replacement. 

Pruners- bypass
whetstone
Blade sharpener

Start in the Planting Beds

It is easier to start cleaning up in your planning beds and throw everything on to the lawn or a tarp.  Consider dividing your yard waste at this point so you don’t have to move it twice.  You will probably have stuff for the composter, garbage and municipal pick up or for transporting to an approved site for yard waste.  Use separate piles for each and keep larger branches in their own pile for ease of collection.  I use tarps for collecting debris on the lawn but some people are happier putting it directly in whatever bag or container your municipality accepts. A tarp is useful to wrap everything up if you have to transport the debris yourself.

Soil on Tarp
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Man digging

Steps in Efficient Spring Clean up

Do them in this order for the most efficient work.

Planting Beds Spring Clean Up Steps

  1. Cut back brown or dead foliage
  2. Rake out debris from all planting beds
  3. ‘Fluff’ the soil gently
    • This means dig the top few inches up with your garden fork and sift gently.
  4. Remove any weeds

  5. Divide and replant perennials as needed.
  6. Edge beds
  7. Fertilize
    • my preference is for blood and bone meal - worked into the soil
    • An organic liquid nutrient is also very beneficial.
  8. Re-mulch
 Garden Fork

Spring Pruning Only if Necessary

  • Pruning for shrub health
    • Broken or crossed branches
    • Water sprouts- branches that grow straight up without branching
    • Branches with too many growing points like clawed finger caused by injudicious previous pruning
  • Thinning or rejuvenation that wasn’t done in the Fall but may be urgent now due to plant size or other garden aesthetics.

NOTE – Pruning of Spring flowering plants or those that flower on last year’s wood (ex; mock orange, viburnum, weigela )will have reduced flowers if you prune now but in some cases it may be necessary.

Grass- care, Naturally

  1. Aerate
  2. De-thatch – gently
  3. Rake out (soil plugs)  and rake up (dead grass)
  4. Choose one of two options depending on the condition of your lawn
    1. Option One :Over-seed and fix bare spots. 
    2. An application of fertilizer specifically formulated for seed and root development is an option.  
    3. Option Twp: Suppress weed seeds by applying corn gluten meal
  5. Fertilization is general, should not start until after the 2nd cut of the season or early June in zone 4 or 5.


Fan Rake

You Can Always Just Rake the Lawn

If you are happy enough with your lawn, you can just rake to remove debris and help the grass stand straight after being flattened by the snow and ice of the winter.  This will let it use the sun's warmth and light to better purpose. You also end up removing some brown dead grass, so your lawn looks greener.