When the frost begins to thaw and the first signs of spring appear, it’s time to start thinking about your garden. While it’s true that many of your plants won’t fully come to life for another six months, the more you can knock off your list before spring, the better off your plants, lawn, and schedule will be. So even if you’re still enjoying cozy time in front of the fire, consider tackling, or even preparing for, some outdoor chores during breaks in the weather.
If you live in a snow-covered area, this task will have to wait, but if the thaw is on it’s the perfect time to tackle the first round of seasonal weeds. Since the soil is soft before the heat of summer cements it in, pull weeds and invasive grass for a jump start to the spring weeding. The earlier and more frequently you pull them, the easier they are to control throughout the season.
If the weather outside is still too severe to work the ground, there are still ways to prep your garden from within the cover of your workshop. Plan and build trellises, arbors and raised beds in preparation for the planting season.
If the heavy frost is past, dig into that fence-building project. Your post hole digger will glide through the soil much easier early in the year than it will if you wait until August. Plus, your garden space will be protected from wildlife and domestic animals before you even get the seeds in the ground.
It’s important to get your plants established before the growing season begins so they are ready to accept nutrients and thrive. Deciduous trees and shrubs still in their dormant season can be moved as long as the ground isn’t too frozen or too wet. Evergreen flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, myrtles, azaleas and camellias can be moved once the threat of frost has passed.
Even if you can’t check weeding or planting off your list, late winter is the ideal time to care for your lawn and garden supplies. Choose a reasonably agreeable weather day and empty the garden shed or supplies from the garage. Wash planting pots and allow them to dry. Clean and add protectants to tools. Also, sharpen blades and take an inventory of trimmer string and similar supplies that need replacing. Reorganize tools and supplies and donate unneeded or duplicate items to your local Habitat for Humanity reStore.
Also, create a planting calendar so you have an idea of the workload in the upcoming months. Organize your seeds in a box in order of when they need planting — whether you’re using indoor starts, a greenhouse, or direct planting. This is also the perfect time to order seeds or plants. Make sure to check out your local extension office for garden plant sales nearby. While you’re in planning mode, make a list of desired projects for the year and create a workable timeline for each, complete with a budget.
Lawn edging is another task that is much easier in soft soil so tidy up the edges around all lawns and add a border if it’s in your plans. It will make mowing and other maintenance much easier throughout the season.
As your plants begin to rise from their winter slumber, deadhead last year’s growth as appropriate for each plant. Trim off spent blooms you may have missed in the fall, including the foliage from ornamental grasses. Also, remove the faded flowers from winter pansies and other current bloomers to extend their blooming season.
Caring for fruit
February and March (if this is winter in your area) are the time to get root plants in the ground. This includes blueberries and raspberries. For fruit trees, protect them from the birds by adding netting before the fruit begins to develop. It’s much easier to cover plants and trees before they fill out with a full bloom. If you already have established berries, go ahead and cut them back now as the growing season begins.
While we’re discussing trees, late winter is still a dormant time where trees respond well to pruning. It’s also easier to see the growth pattern of the branches so you can select which of them needs to be trimmed back. Avoid pruning spring-blooming trees until after they have completed their bloom season.
Pruning shrubs and climbers
Now is also the time to trim back ivy, wisteria and other climbers as well as hearty shrubs like boxwood. Creating a shape now drops care down to a maintenance level for the season, meaning you will just need to monitor its growth, feeding, and watering.
Feed the birds
Even though the temperatures may be starting to level out or rise, the birds are still foraging for food so give them a handout. Clean and fill bird feeders with quality food to keep them coming back for more.
Dig a pond
If you have set a goal of putting in a pond or other feature, dust off the design and get digging now. Again, you’ll find it much easier to create a hole in soft soil than rock hard tundra. If it will be a while before you finish the task, make sure the hole is properly covered to avoid accidents.
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