Pruning trees and shrubs
If you haven't already, you should finish pruning this month. Wait too much longer and you'll be cutting away valuable sapwood, which your trees and shrubs will not appreciate. Take care when pruning to avoid being too dramatic, and keep an eye out for signs of disease. If you see plants that appear infected or injured, address the situation before it spreads.
Clearing and preparing the soil
At the same time, cut back the remainders of dead perennials and other plants that haven't survived the frost. Rake, sweep, and start preparing the soil for planting. Think about what's going where so you can make the best soil conditioning decisions; for example, some plants don't like freshly manured or "hot" soil while others thrive in it. And if you haven’t soil tested lately, now is the time, so you can make sure you have the right nutrient balance for your plants.
Clearing debris away provides less shelter for pests, but if you spot them, take action. Use a non-toxic slug repellent if necessary, and consider companion plantings to manage insect pests. Remember, there are several options for compassionate pest control.
Once temperatures are averaging around 42 degrees, you can sow seeds directly outside. This is a good time to get started with crops like beets that don't appreciate being transplanted. Meanwhile, the seedings you started last month can go out. Use cloches or plastic to warm the soil and protect your plants if the weather gets hostile.
The time is right for cool season veggies, including some of my favorites, like chard and kale. You can also get lettuce seeds going, and think about tomatoes and eggplants (yum!).
In your flower garden, split your perennials — the weather is warm enough to uproot them and work the soil without shocking them, but it's still early enough that they haven't gone into major production mode. You can plant your divisions elsewhere or trade them with other gardeners. Trades can be a great way to get neat plants that are expensive or hard to obtain, so consider joining a local club or plant exchange if you aren't already hooked up with local gardeners.
Planting durable ornamentals
Meanwhile, your nursery should be bursting at the seams with all kinds of great trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. It's a great time to start planting out your ornamental, along with berry bushes and trees (which aren't picked over yet). If you want some bright spots of color without the wait, consider primroses. They smell amazing and they’ll provide an instant makeover for a gloomy garden.
Since weather has been unpredictable in many areas of the U.S. lately, consider plants that are durable and tolerant for your garden this year. Improved Meyer lemons, for example, yield great fruit in a range of gardening zones and they're not as fussy as some other lemon cultivars — plus they have lovely blossoms. Likewise, established peonies and other flowers can also be highly durable, in addition to being beautiful.
Related stories on MNN:
- 6 unusual herbs to grow in your spring garden
- How to get your vegetable garden off to a good start
- Protect your garden from spring frost