ASK MARTHA: Preparing your Garden for Spring

Martha’s essential steps for spring garden clean-up

Question: Hi Martha, I didn’t clean my garden last fall and now it’s a mess. How do I prepare it for Spring? 

Martha: Spring is almost here, and I am looking forward to another gardening season at my farm. It’s time to prepare our gardens for the months to come. You can start anytime it’s warm enough to be out in the garden. Here are my essential tasks to help get your garden spring-ready!

1. Clean

Garden beds and carefully clear out any dead organic matter such as plant material and fallen branches, as well as leaves. Add to your compost pile.

2. Start

Composting. This is a perfect time to start a compost pile or compost bin. It’s easy to begin during your clean-up. Gather plant debris and leaves as you clean. Mix this “brown” material with equal parts “green” material like grass clippings and coffee grounds. See Ask Martha: How to Compost at Home to learn more.

3. Turn

Your garden beds. Garden soil tends to compact during the winter months. You can work the soil in when it’s thawed and loose enough to dig with a shovel or garden fork. Be careful not to disturb any bulbs or emerging plants as you turn the soil.

4. Test

Your soil. A soil test will pinpoint any deficiencies and indicate which nutrients will turn your soil into a productive, fertile growing medium. You can perform a test yourself using an inexpensive kit or contact your local cooperative extension for assistance.

5. Remedy

Soil deficiencies by adding organic matter which enhances its ability to absorb water. You can supplement your soil by adding a three-inch layer of Miracle-Gro® Organic All Natural Mulch or Miracle-Gro® Organic Raised Bed & Garden Soil to improve your garden beds texture and nutrient content.

6. Feed

Once the soil is workable, it is time to feed the soil. Fertilizers are used to boost the soil's nutrient content. Use liquid fertilizers for a quick boost; granular ones break down more slowly, providing a more gradual, long-lasting release like Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed® Extended Boost.

7. Protect

Mulch is a porous layer of material that, when spread a couple inches thick on soil, keeps weeds at bay, locks in moisture, prevents erosion, and boosts the quality of the soil, without the need for harsh chemicals. It also keeps the soil cool and moist in warm weather, cutting down on the need for watering. Miracle-Gro® Organic All Natural Mulch is a good all-purpose choice.

8. Prune

Plants of any dead or damaged branches and old foliage. This will improve your plants health as they push out new spring growth.

9. Plant

Bare spots in your garden with annuals, perennials, trees, or shrubs. Planting is one of the most important gardening tasks establishing roots, leaves, and stems.

Martha's Tip:

When selecting plants for your garden, begin by using USDA hardiness zones to help you decide if they will thrive in your area. To find your zone, consult the map below. This is only one indication of plant hardiness. Summer temperatures, humidity, rainfall, and snow cover will also affect how well a plant will do in your area.

Article by Martha Stewart, as part of the Growing with Martha Stewart partnership.