While there are specific jobs for each month, yard gardening is mostly ruled by seasons and their weather patterns. In the temperate region of the Midwest we have more than the four seasons, because each one is nuanced by early, mid, and late versions.
In earliest spring, it may be too risky to plant outside, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some cold hardy crops, some preparations of soil and seed planting that aren’t on the chore list!Beginning Gardener?
It’s Early Spring Or Late Winter
The season that starts in February and goes through about mid-March is either late winter or early spring in the gardens around here. Which is it?
For me, it is early spring: snowdrops are appearing, along with other bulbs that push the envelope every time there is a break in the weather. Sometimes it is an Aconite, and the tips of snow crocus make their appearance. While the really early narcissus are called “February Gold”, and names like that, it is rare that we would see any blooms before the middle of March. But the daffodil spears are breaking the soil surface at this time! All signs that spring will win out in the next few months.
While January is much too early to start seeds, there are some that can tolerate some frost outdoors, especially if you have a coldframe setup; and indoor starts of some that need longer seasons should be planted now.
14 Early Spring Chores
- Get tools ready
Buy the tools you will need. Clean and ready cutting edge tools, if you neglected that back in the fall.
- Buy supplies and seeds
Soilless potting mix, cool season vegetables, plants needing early start (tomato seeds, etc), markers, pots, and lights if need be.
- Starting seeds
Check the germination times, planting advice for your particular seeds, make a schedule for starting so they don’t have a chance to grow “leggy” before it is time to put them into the outdoor garden.
- Open weather? Open the ground.
It’s an old farmer’s trick to till the snow into the ground in early spring, especially if the ground is dry from winter’s cold. There are thaws before the rains when the ground is ready for tilling. Ready your vegetable garden when you see such times.
In raised beds move back any mulching or remove any weeds, get the soil warming … you may have good conditions to plant cool season crops, now.
- Walk around the garden
Although enjoyable, this is also a time to heel in any frost-heaved fall plantings or perennials. If roots are exposed, these plnat will soon dry out, so use your garden boot or clog to simply push the lifted part of the plant back into the ground.
- Clear out the old – perennials, broken branches, matted foliage.
Clear the way for new growth, remove potential disease harboring debris, but don’t expose new sprouts to weather. Keep the mulch protection until true spring weather arrives.
- Trim Bergenia, Epimedium, and Helleborus leaves to remove winter-damaged foliage.
Leaves that persist through winter, and (for some) might be evergreen, will often look tattered by this time. Go ahead and remove them and let the light and spring air reach the new buds and flowers developing.
- Prune -prime pruning time.
Trees: inside or crossing branches, mark larger branches with a bit of colored stringThis helpful tip will give you confidence to prune judiciously before making cuts.
This is the best time to prune, when plants are dormant. However, remember that you may remove spring bloom, lilacs and all spring bloomers should be pruned after flowering.
- Cut back ornamental grasses.
The tops were ornamental through winter, they protected the crowns, but now it is time to make way for new growth. Get your newly sharpened hedge shears out and “out with the old, in with the new”.
- Plan your container recipes + clean containers, get them ready.
Scrub your pots from last season, fill with new soil.
- Don’t get antsy. Don’t plant too early. But do start seeds indoors for your post-frost transplants.
One of the most disappointing things is to get plants started beautifully, only to have to hold them as frosts prevent planting. Those plants become leggy if held indoors too long, and can be lost altogether if planted outside in chilly ground.
- Also, don’t be tempted to uncover protected plants, like roses. Wait until later in the season, then uncover slowly.
Let them get used to the weather… remove mulch coverings when it is safe, in late spring.
- Cut some spring flowering branches to force.
This is the way to enjoy early spring bloom- bring a few branches indoors: Cherry, Quince, Forsythia.
- Use pruned branches of hazel, birch, or willow to create plant supports around peonies or tall growing perennials.
After you have pruned your trees and shrubs is the easiest time to make natural looking supports for tall or floppy perennials. The twiggy branches and other prunings help support tall lilies, delphiniums, and other perennials. Peonies are classic examples of blooms which benefit from a frameworks of branches.
Now, what are you waiting for? Get a jumpstart on your growing season, you’ve been looking forward to it all winter!