How to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring

Spring is, without a doubt, the busiest time of year for homeowners and gardeners. Not only do we need to get around to the usual indoor spring cleaning, but we also have to tidy up the landscape and prepare our gardens for the season. Truthfully, it can all be a little overwhelming!

The best thing to do is to start planning for the warm season as early as you can-think about what you want your 2020 landscape to look like, decide what new perennials, annuals, and edibles you want to plant in your garden, and add these essential tasks to your spring checklist:

Treat Winter Damage in the Landscape

Just like cold winter winds leave us with dry skin and chapped lips, the elements can be damaging to the trees, shrubs, and other perennial plants in our landscape. Along with the harsh winds, freezing temperatures, cycles of freezing and thawing (expanding and contracting), and salt buildup are the biggest culprits. When the snow and ice finally melt in Bismarck, assess your landscape for:

  • Leaf scorch and winter burn
  • Discoloration of new growth
  • Bent or broken branches
  • Branch dieback
  • Salt buildup/ dehydrated roots
Usually, a good, deep watering will help to rehydrate your plants and wash away salts, allowing them to bounce back from damage in no time. You may also have to do some tidying and pruning of unsightly branches, and occasionally remove a dead tree or shrub altogether. Take note of plants that were particularly affected by winter weather and make sure to prepare them better next year by applying mulch and wrapping them up.

Rejuvenate The Lawn

Rejuvenate The Lawn

It might not seem all that exciting, but your lawn is actually one of the most valued parts of your landscape! Achieving that perfectly lush, vibrant-green lawn that everyone on the block envies starts with pampering your grass right from the get-go. After the snow melts, here's what you should do:
Remove debris from the winter and rake up leaves leftover from the fall.

  • Dethatch your lawn by raking it thoroughly.
  • Aerate by using a lawn aeration tool.
  • Overseed any bare or thin patches of grass.
  • Water and fertilize your lawn.
  • Mow your lawn only when it has reached 2 inches in height, and avoid cutting more than one-third of the height off at a time

Care for Your Gardening Tools

Caring for your tools will not only make them last longer, but they'll also be safer to use (for both you and your precious plants!). Whenever your tools come into contact with plants or soils, they can collect bacteria and fungi that may spread throughout your landscape if you don't clean and store your tools properly. While we suggest cleaning and sterilizing your tools after every use, spring is a great time to do some extra maintenance:

  • Clean tools with warm, soapy water and brush away the dirt with a stiff wire or bristle brush.
  • Sterilize your tools by soaking them in a 2:1 bleach-to-water mixture or wiping them down with rubbing alcohol.
  • Sand wooden handles to keep them smooth.
  • Check your tools for rust spots and scrub or sand those away, too.
  • Sharpen your tools along their existing angles using a file, sharpening stone, or specialized sharpening tool. If you can, secure your tool to a table first, and always wear proper protective equipment, like eye protection and gloves.
  • Grease tools with plant-based oil, such as boiled linseed oil to protect them from rust and keep them operating smoothly. Never use petroleum-based oil products on your gardening tools-they will spread to your plants and soil!
  • Replace tools with broken, cracked, or loose parts.

Start Seeds Indoors

Start Seeds Indoors

Although the growing season is technically still a few months away, now is the perfect time to start planning what you want to grow this year. Many seeds for annual flowers and edibles can be started indoors earlier in the spring, which gives your plants a head start on the growing season.

Most seeds start about 6-8 weeks before the last predicted frost date, which is around the third week of May here in Bismarck. Since you could be starting seeds as early as March, it's important to decide what you want to grow now, so you can be prepared when it's time to start planting indoors.

To start seeds indoors, simply follow instructions on the seed packet regarding time to germination (count back from the last predicted frost date) and germination requirements. At the very least, these are the supplies you'll need:

  • Seeds
  • Containers (we recommend multi-celled trays for convenience and space)
  • Sterile potting mix
  • Labels (so you can keep track of what plants are growing, where!)
While many seeds require a dark place at first, most seedlings will need bright lights and a warm environment when they begin to poke through. Even if you have a bright and sunny window in your home, consider investing in some quality grow lights.
After the risk of frost has passed, you can begin to harden off your seedlings.

Introduce them to outdoor conditions slowly by starting them in shade or overcast and increasing their time outdoors by about an hour a day. Once they've survived a few 8-hour days, they're ready to be transplanted into the garden.

Prepare Garden Beds for Planting

While your seeds are nestled away in their cozy little cells, you can be getting your garden beds ready for planting. First, clear out old plant material, mulch, weeds, and other debris-not only are these things eyesores, but they can be a liability to your new plants. Freshen perennial plants up with a light trim and some fresh mulch.

The most important part of preparing garden beds for spring is getting the soil ready for planting. Under the weight of snow and ice, soil tends to get compacted, so start by loosening up the ground and replenishing garden beds that seem to be a little low. Next, enrich the soil with compost and other soil amendments to improve soil texture, drainage, moisture retention, and nutrient content.

When you're ready for planting, start with plants that are more hardy-some summer-flowering bulbs and new perennial plants can be planted pretty early in the season. Even some veggies, like lettuce, onions, and potatoes, can handle some light frost. After the risk of frost has passed, go ahead with planting your more tender annuals and edibles, and transplant seedlings to the garden. Remember to apply mulch after planting-it helps to protect plant roots from the sun, retain soil moisture, and it also keeps weeds at bay. It looks pretty snazzy, too!

Apply Spring Fertilizers

Apply Spring Fertilizers

Don't forget to fertilize! While some plants can flourish just fine on their own, many plants require an extra dose of nutrients to sustain vigorous growth and big, beautiful blooms. Each plant will have varying recommendations on type and dosage, so we recommend looking into the specific species you have to figure out precisely what they'll need.

Some perennials, especially those that flower or fruit, may benefit from a single application of fertilizer in early spring. Annual plants in your flower beds and vegetable gardens may need to be fertilized more frequently.

Once the snow melts, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the muddy mess it leaves behind. Start preparing for your spring garden now by adding these tasks to your spring checklist-you'll have a flourishing landscape again in no time! Need advice on getting your garden ready for spring in Bismarck? Our staff at Plant Perfect be happy to steer you in the right direction!

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