Photo courtesy of Dig.Drop.Done. Image by: Photo courtesy of Dig.Drop.Done.
1. Do a walk around, but tread lightly
Before you start stomping all over the yard in your rain boots, make sure that the ground – both grass and garden – has adequately dried out. If it has, grab a tubtrug or a yard bag to collect the errant branches, twigs and other debris that appeared in the yard over the winter. There might even be a few weeds to pull already!
When the ground is completely firm, take a leaf rake and very gently gather dead leaves and thatch. Also clear any leaves and dead plant debris out of your gardens, but be careful not to disturb new growth.
Take note of any fixes that you need to make around the yard. For example, did the frost heave your paving stones? Is your pond pump working? Is your fence sagging?
2. Take an inventory
• Organize your potting shed, taking stock of what you have (fertilizer, working hoses and nozzles, plant supports, yard bags, leftover soil, grass seed etc.) and making a list of things you'll need.
• Dig out your gardening gloves and other gear so they're easy to reach whenever you head outside.
• Scrub the soil out of your pots if you didn't do so in the fall.
• Sharpen tools, such as pruners and secateurs, as well as your lawn mower (or send them to be professionally sharpened well before you'll need them).
• Inspect your rain barrel and hook it up if it was disconnected in the fall.
• Check on your compost pile, looking for signs of mould.
3. Prune your shrubs
Before you put your attention-starved pruners to work, make sure you know what you're cutting. Avoid pruning anything that flowers – you don't want to ruin the show! – or anything that flows with sap in the spring.
Because spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythias and lilacs, start to produce next year's buds over the summer, the best time to prune them is as soon as their blooms die back.
Plants that can benefit from a good pruning at this time of year include:
• fruit-bearing woody plants;
• rose of Sharon; and
4. Make your gardens ready for prime time
Work a good layer of fresh compost into the soil of your gardens to prepare your beds for the annuals and perennials you're itching to buy at the nursery or the edibles you plan on planting.
Don't forget that you can plant cool-weather crops at this time of year, including:
• leeks; and
For the rest of your veggies, you'll need to confirm your area's frost-free date before putting them in the ground. More delicate plants such as tomatoes and peppers should be planted when the temperatures hover consistently between 18 and 20° Celsius. Seedlings grown indoors require a period of acclimatization called "hardening off."
5. Prepare for big blooms
It's much easier to place supports, such as peony rings and tomato cages, around plants and to install stakes before the plants are too far along and you risk damaging them. It's best to get them in early.
Click here to find out what to plant in the spring