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Expert Advice: 10 Tips to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring

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Expert Advice: 10 Tips to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring

March 3, 2018

Waiting for spring can make you as antsy as waiting for Christmas when you were a kid. Will it ever get here? And then it arrives suddenly…and there’s no more luxurious time to scheme or dream.

We think of winter as a gift—precious time to prepare for spring. Barb Pierson, nursery manager at White Flower Farm in Connecticut, has 10 essential tips to prepare a garden for spring. We’re on it.

Photography by Sara Barrett for Gardenista, except where noted.

1. See what’s not there.

A trial bed at White Flower Farm.
Above: A trial bed at White Flower Farm.

When trees are bare and plants are dormant is the best time to study a garden’s underpinnings. “In the winter, you can see what’s missing. Are there areas where you need screening because you suddenly you notice the air conditioning unit that looks horrible?” asks Pierson.

2. Add trellises, tuteurs, and supports.

On that topic, &#8
Above: On that topic, “now is a good time to think about—and add—screening elements like trellises and tuteurs,” says Pierson. “There’s room in the garden to put them in.”

Pierson’s favorite is a white pyramid tuteur (visible in background above). See more ideas in 10 Easy Pieces: Garden Tuteurs, A Glamorous Trellis to Reflect Sunlight, and DIY Bean Trellis.

3. Help your hardscape.

This is a good time to fix or add to your hardscape. &#8
Above: This is a good time to fix or add to your hardscape. “Get sand to fill the cracks on a brick path, for instance,” Pierson says. “It’s a great time to think about edging. Do you want to add some kind of stone edging? Add it now.”

4. Plant trees and shrubs.

Give your garden good bones by strategically placing small trees and shrubs to anchor beds. &#8
Above: Give your garden good bones by strategically placing small trees and shrubs to anchor beds. “Ask yourself what small trees and shrubs do you want and do you need more evergreens,” Pierson says. “Think about focal points and build out from there.”

Some ideas to consider: spring-flowering dogwoods, trees with Colorful Fall Foliage, and replacing a fence with a Hedge.

5. Place your order.

Cleome hassleriana in bloom against a stone wall at White Flower Farm.
Above: Cleome hassleriana in bloom against a stone wall at White Flower Farm.

After you decide how to fill the holes, place an early order to get the best selection and prices on both specimen trees and hardscape elements.

“Last year I waited too long and for my own garden I couldn’t get the white tuteur before we sold out,” says Pierson. “I like it because it looks clean and actually becomes part of the garden design.”

6. Buy seeds.

Nicotiana and echinacea mix well in a border.
Above: Nicotiana and echinacea mix well in a border.

“I like to direct-sow in spring, but it’s very important to order now or you won’t get what you want,” Pierson says. “One of my favorite vendors is Renee’s Garden. I’m ordering all my cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers now.”

The secret to sowing seeds directly into the ground? “Raised beds are the answer because you’ll be sowing into nice, light, fluffy potting soil. If you don’t have air in soil, you’ll have problems.”

For more of our favorite sources for seeds, see Ask the Expert: 7 Tips to Grow Cut Flowers and 10 Easy Pieces: Heirloom Seeds for Spring.

7. Rehab your tools.

Photograph by Erin Boyle. For more, see How to Clean and Care for Garden Pruners.
Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle. For more, see How to Clean and Care for Garden Pruners.

Now is the season when you have time to clean, oil, and repair tools. Do it. “I was just down in my basement last night to take stock, to look at my scissors and pruners and what needs to be sharpened,” says Pierson. “My gloves are a disaster; the middle finger always goes out. Anything I need to replace for the coming season, I’ll do now because I’ll get better price and availability.”

8. Prune judiciously.

&#8
Above: “If you live in a zone where you already see that trees and shrubs have buds swelling, you want to get the pruning done before they do leaf out,” says Pierson. “It’s also a good time to move or remove plants that just didn’t do well, for instance if you tried to grow a full-sun thing and it’s not in full sun anymore.”

9. Weed with enthusiasm.

&#8
Above: “If your ground is not frozen,  now is a great time for weeding before the roots get established and everything goes to seed,” Pierson says. “It’s easier to weed in moist soil.”

10. Mulch for moisture.

 &#8
Above: “A lot of landscapers will have early specials on mulch and if you are in an area where it’s not going to snow, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about it,” Pierson says. “If you have a shrub border established and you want to get that mulch on before it gets hot, it’s not a bad idea—especially if you live where you know it’s going to get dry later in the season. Get it on now to capture the moisture while you have it.”

See more pre-spring cleanup ideas tips for growing Perennials, Annuals, and Edibles in our curated Garden Design 101 guides. And if you’re taking advantage of one of the last weekends of winter to do some armchair gardening, see:

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