Get A Head Start On Spring Gardening

garden tools to start gardeningEven though it may still be nippy or even downright cold outside, spring is coming up fast and bringing with it the renewal of everything fresh and green. Now’s the time to start preparing your lawn and garden for the lush grass and bountiful flowers that will fill your senses through the warmer months.

The last thing you need in your life is another to-do list. So here’s what we’ll call a menu of gardening tasks that you can pick and choose from depending upon whether you have a vast outdoor domain or a little jewel box of a garden.

1. Get Your Tools In Shape

If you didn’t clean and oil your tools before you put them away the last time you used them, take some time now to get them ready.

  • Scrub off old dirt. Soap isn’t necessary, but use a stiff brush to get all the dirt out of crevices. Then rinse and dry thoroughly.
  • Remove rust. If blades are rusty, soak them in a container of vinegar for a day or two. Any residue should scrub off with a steel wool pad or rough sandpaper.
  • Lubricate the pivot points. Just one or two drops of 3-in-one oil or something similar will keep tools operating smoothly.
  • Sharpen blades. Use a whetstone or knife sharpener. Dull blades make your work a lot harder and can mangle stems and branches.

2. Prepare the Lawn

Winter weather and foot traffic can cause the soil to compact and make it uneven in spots. It can also alter the pH, making the soil more conducive to weeds and disease. Unless you really know what you’re doing, hire a professional for lawn care services to take care of everything and get you going to a beautiful carpet of grass. If you’re set on doing it yourself, these are the basic steps:

  • Rake vigorously. Really going at it will remove surface leaves, debris, and dead grass as well as disentangling matted areas and thatch.
  • Correct the surface and soil. You can rent an aerator at a garden center, where you’ll also find pH test kits. Apply lime for acidic soil, sulphur for soil that’s too alkaline. But get an expert opinion before you use either or you could do more harm than good.
  • Seed bare spots. Don’t expect seeds to germinate, however, until the soil temperature reaches about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pre-treat for weeds. A pre-emergent herbicide will take care of weeds before they start, but it will also stop grass seeds from germinating, so take care where you use it.
  • Feeding your lawn gives it a stronger root system and the energy for a long growing season. Follow directions for whether you have warm or cool season grass, and for the part of the country in which you live.

3. Clean Out the Flower Beds

Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house. All sorts of debris accumulates in the garden during the winter, and there’s old foliage to contend with, too. Clear it all out so you and the plants alike have a fresh, new start.

4. Prune Woody Plants

It’s getting past time to prune rose bushes, so get to it if you haven’t already. (Brush up on the technique, if you have to. There are tons of resources online.) It’s best to prune tree branches while they’re dormant but after the coldest weather has passed. Dead branches can be pruned any time. For some great information about trees, check out the Arbor Day Foundation.

5. Divide Perennials

Clumping perennials — like daylilies, agapanthus, geraniums, and many other varieties — should be divided ahead of the coming warm weather so their roots have time to establish themselves. Experts recommend dividing these plants when they’ve gotten too big for their spots in the garden, or when their centers are losing vitality.

starter plants for early gardening6. Start Seeds Inside

Many flowers and vegetables need more hours of sunlight than they can get outdoors in most places far from where they originally evolved. Their seeds won’t sprout in cold soil, and they need more warm weather to bloom or produce. Even in temperate climate zones, starting seeds indoors gives them a good start. Different plants have different requirements, so check the seed packets to find out how many weeks it will take for each variety to get ready before the optimum time to transplant them outdoors. Growing seeds is a fun activity to get the kids involved in, too!

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