Are you more the spring greening than the spring cleaning type? We feel you. If you're eager to escape the house, put on your gardening gloves, and get out in the yard, there's no better moment than the warm-ish days of early spring. Start with this 6-step checklist as soon as weather permits, and you'll have more time later on for tending to your garden once the glory days of growing have fully returned.
1. Put Your Goals on Paper
If you haven’t already mapped out your garden or chosen which plants you’d like to grow, grab a notepad and head outside. (Already done this step? Bring your plans or vision board with you instead.) Walk your garden—or potential plot—and take note of where the sun hits, any soil concerns (more on that below), or supports you’ll need, like a trellis. This is also a great time to strategize companion plants: Basil doesn’t just pair well with tomatoes on your plate—fragrant herbs can help keep pests away from vegetables when grown together in the garden. Discover more plants that thrive with one another in our companion plants article.
2. Tidy Up Outdoors
Start the season off right with a clean canvas. Rake up dead leaves, sticks, and branches and remove rocks that have been heaved to the surface by frost. Start a compost pile for all of the organic debris, or turn your compost if you’ve been adding to it all winter. Remove existing weeds; the more you eliminate now, the less competition your plants will face for sunlight, nutrients and moisture. Take this time to revive any garden decor from last year, and give birdhouses or baths a scrub. If you planted in-ground beds last year, use a flat-bladed spade or a lawn edger to cut a fresh edge around where the beds meet your lawn.
3. Tune Up Your Tools
Save time later by tuning up your tools now during this transition period. Sharpen hand pruners and loppers, file your spades and shovels (or take them to a pro), and set up rain barrels or your garden hose. If this is your first growing season, channel some of your excitement by purchasing a few must-have tools for gardening. Consider it retail relief that will benefit you for years to come.
4. Tend to Trees and Shrubs
Trim ornamental grasses, prune rose bushes, and cut back deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves annually) while they’re still dormant. This is also the time to train and prune fruit trees: Pick a mild day to remove any weak branches or overcrowded growth, then use Miracle-Gro® Tree & Shrub Fertilizer Spikes, following the directions on the package, to provide nutrition at their roots. Be sure to read our guide to pruning shrubs and trees for more tips on how to help them flourish.
5. Improve Garden Soil
Soil is the backbone of successful gardening. If you think of it as an earthy environment for plants to cling to, you’re not wrong, but high quality soil does so much more, like provide essential nutrients and minerals plus the right texture for roots to spread out. Since not all soil is the same, make sure you’re kicking off the season with the good stuff by improving any soil you used last year or giving a boost to what’s already in the ground.
For in-ground beds, pick up a handful of earthy soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles easily, you can get started, but if it sticks together in a clump, that means it’s still too wet and it’s better to wait a little longer so more winter moisture can evaporate. Once it’s dry enough to work with, till the soil and mix 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Garden Soil into the top 6 inches of your native soil. This will give your bed a rich foundation that roots can grab onto, as well as continuous-release plant food for long-lasting nutritional support.
Planning to use your raised beds from last season? Awesome! Work a layer of Miracle-Gro® Refresh 1™ Soil Revitalizer into the old soil (following all package directions) to add vital nutrients and restore its ability to retain water. Next, top off the bed with new Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, a 100% organic formula that’s the ideal weight and texture for growing strong plants.
You’ll also want to improve any potting soil left in your containers. Following the label instructions, add a layer of Miracle-Gro® Refresh 1™ Soil Revitalizer to restore soil structure and replenish nutrition, then top off each container with Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. The specially formulated blend will feed your plants for up to 6 months and help them grow twice as big (versus unfed).
6. Get Early Plants Ready
Fix the itch to get gardening by tending to plants ready for life outdoors. Once temps have begun to remain above 45° F, you can harden off seedlings started indoors, move any container plants you brought in for winter back outside, and divide and transplant fall-blooming perennials to promote more blooms. Just make sure you have frost blankets at the ready in case there’s an unexpected dip in temps.
7. Edge Your Beds
Cut a clean edge where planting beds meet the lawn. Use a flat-bladed spade or a lawn edger made for this purpose, cutting deeply enough to sever grass roots growing into the bed.
8. Prevent New Weeds
In early spring, you also can apply a pre-emergent weed preventer to tackle new weeds before they appear. Try Miracle-Gro® Garden Weed Preventer around established plants, being careful to apply only around the types of plants listed on the product label.
9. Prune and Feed Trees
Begin pruning deciduous trees, or those that lose their leaves annually, while they are still dormant. For an easy and effective way to feed your trees, try Miracle-Gro® Tree & Shrub Fertilizer Spikes, following the installation instructions provided on the package. For fruit trees, which require more training and pruning, you'll want to begin pruning as late in winter as possible, keeping in mind that younger trees are more susceptible to injury than older trees. Prune branches to allow ample light penetration to the trees' fruit.
Once you tackle this checklist, you’ll have all of the planning, prepping, and essentials ready so you can get out there and have fun once the time is right. As you know, the early bird gets the worm—and in this case, a delicious harvest and beautiful blooms, too!