It’s Time to “De-Winterize” the Garden and Prepare for Spring
Quick tips to tidy up the landscape
It's a little early for planting in most parts of the country, but it's high time to lay the groundwork for a spectacular spring in the garden. Winter weather can leave the landscape looking pretty shabby, so consider this a “pre-spring cleaning" and an opportunity to get organized before planting fever hits.
Late Winter Cleanup
As the snow recedes, take an hour or two to pick up all the sticks and branches that fell during winter and rake up any residual leaf litter. You may also wish to rake out last year's mulch from your flower and vegetable beds—it will be discolored at this point, and exposing the bare earth causes the beds to warm up faster, encouraging early root growth. Old mulch and leaf litter make great additions to a compost pile, while the sticks and branches can go to curb for municipal pick-up.
If you live in a cold climate where evergreen shrubs are typically wrapped in burlap for the winter, it's safe to unwrap them now that the coldest weather has passed. Prune off any brown winter-killed branches on your evergreens, and make a pass through your yard to pull out dead annuals and cut back the tattered, leafless stalks of those perennials that you didn't get to in fall.
Once the soil dries out a bit, it's time to prepare beds for planting annual flowers and vegetables. Pull up any stakes, plant tags, drip irrigation lines or other objects left out from last year and spread a fresh 1- to 2-inch layer of planting mix or compost over the soil. Compost should be tilled in to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, while planting mix can be left on the surface and planted directly into. For vegetables, however, it's always best to till unless you're planting into permanent raised beds (such as those with wooden sides).
This is also an opportunity to spread slow release fertilizer, compost and other soil amendments over your perennial beds (the ones that you've just raked the mulch out of) before they become covered in vegetation again. No need to till these into the soil, you'll only damage the roots of the plants in doing so—just leave the amendments on the surface and then cover the beds with fresh mulch later in spring to help with water conservation.
Attend to Your Tools
Gas-powered equipment such as lawnmowers, string trimmers, and blowers is often tough to start after it has sat in the cold for several months. Drain and replace the gas, along with the sparkplug and air filter, and sharpen the blades for optimum performance. Local hardware stores and small equipment shops typically offer these spring tune-up services, though they book up fast as spring approaches—all the more reason to get an early start and make an appointment now.