Make the Plants & Flowers in Your Yard Happy and Healthy This Year
As the temperature continues to warm up, it’s time to begin preparing your landscaping, garden, and yard in general for spring planting. Branches, twigs, and leaves may have accumulated under shrubs and in corners of the yard and planting beds and needs to be cleaned out and raked. Shrubs and trees need tending and soil needs to be prepared for planting. Lawns need to be raked, fertilized, and seeded.
We’re big fans of healthy, happy yards, gardens, and outdoor living spaces in general, so we’ve put together this guide for both newbies and master gardens alike as a bit of a checklist to help you jumpstart your landscape each spring.
Spring is the ideal time to pamper your home landscaping by tending to shrubs and trees, preparing the soil for planting annuals and other plants, mulching beds, and generally tidying up for the best presentation. This rustic luxury home has a lovely landscape that is tended to perfection (Plan #161-1036).
Clean the Gardening Tools
Did you know that your gardening tools can actually carry bugs and diseases? This is because any remaining plant sap or dirt can build up during the winter months and hold onto bacteria or fungal spores.
To ensure that they do not harm your plants, it’s best to give them a good clean in the springtime after a season of disuse. A good way to start is by soaking your tools in a mixture of 90% water and 10% bleach. You can also use Pine-Sol or Lysol, but bleach is an inexpensive and effective option.
Thoroughly rinse and dry the tools after they soak, however, as residual bleach can slowly corrode your tools. If your tools seem a little rusty, now is also a great time to give them a good oiling if you hadn’t done so in the fall.
It's a good idea to keep your gardening tools clean, not only to make them last longer without rusting out, etc. but to keep plants healthy by reducing the transference of bacteria and plant diseases (photo by John Bogna on Unsplash).
Once your tools are clean, the next best thing to do is to give your garden a good once (or twice!) over to ensure that there are so many uninvited guests making their home there.
This could be things like aphids, slugs, snails, and the particularly awful white vine weevil larvae, as they live in compost and feed on plant roots, which make them a real danger to all healthy gardens.
Additionally, caterpillars and grubs can be a real nuisance to have in your garden come springtime. This is especially true if you had any problems with them in the previous year, as they have been known to overwinter within the top 6-8 inches of soil. Because of this, you will need to turn over the soil to effectively remove them. Spraying the soil with a broad-spectrum biodegradable insecticide isn’t a bad idea either.
Taking steps early to reduce or eliminate garden pests like this North American gypsy moth caterpillar will reduce damage to landscaping and garden vegetation during the growing season (photo credit: Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Eating Leaves by CharlesC under license CC By-SA 4.0).
Clear and Mulch Flower & Landscape Beds
While checking topsoil for any pests, it’s also a good idea to give your planting beds a good spring cleaning. This can include weeding, ensuring the soil isn’t compacted, tilling the soil if you choose, and mulching.
During the winter, soil tends to become compacted, so you may need to loosen it up by turning it over with a shovel. You should try to work the soil to a depth of at least 12 to 14 inches to ensure a healthy garden or planting bed.
Loosening soil in landscape and garden planting beds by turning it with a shovel makes for easier planting and healthier plants. Oxygen, which helps the subsoil ecosystem, and nutrients can penetrate loosened soil better than hard, compacted soil (photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash).
If there’s any mulch or leaf litter that seems to be already composting, you can mix it in; if the leaf litter seems fairly fresh, however, then you should dispose of it properly before proceeding.
When removing weeds, it's important to dispose of them properly, too. You’ll need to pull them out by the root so they don’t re-grow and/or seed and bother you year after year. Then they need to be either burned, placed in the center of an established compost pile so the heat will completely kill them – once again avoiding the problem of allowing the seeds to take root – or dispose of them in the municipal trash or garden-waste pickup. Once the beds are cleaned up and any new or replacement plants are set in place, replace or renew mulch.
These beautiful landscape beds at the entrance of an elegant Ranch style home with rustic characteristics have been cleaned and trimmed of old-growth and debris. The mulch is fresh and the look is magnificent (Plan 161-1127).
As mentioned above, having a compost pile is great for gardening (and for having a more eco-friendly household in general). And getting your garden ready for spring planting is an excellent time to start one, as clearing your flower beds will provide you with plenty of material.
Throughout the year, you can also add food scraps and plant cuttings to the pile. In return, you will receive excellent homemade fertilizer for your lawn and greatly reduce the amount of material that you send to the landfill. It’s really a win-win!
An important aspect of getting ready for spring planting is to ensure that your planting beds are fertilized. You can decide what kind of fertilizer to put out based on the main types of plants in your garden – as different plants have different needs.
Whatever kind you choose, however, it’s best to give it a few weeks to give the fertilizer plenty of time to really spread throughout the soil. Additionally (and especially if you are doing transplants), adding a final thick layer of mulch can work wonders in that it will go on to protect your soil against other problems down the line.
Annually fertilizing landscape beds like this one at the entrance to a 2–4 bedroom, 2.5–3.5 bath Country Ranch home will ensure that plants, shrubs, and trees will be healthy ans show to their best potential in the front of the house, imporving curb appeal (Plan #161-1121)
If you put any wraps on your trees for the winter, once temperatures stay steady at around 50 degrees and there are no more frosts, it’s time to remove them. It’s best to prune your tree before the first leaves arrive in the spring, however, because the earlier you trim your tree, the easier it will be able to grow.
Something to keep in mind: you don’t have to wait to remove dead branches. You should do so as soon as you notice them.
If the tree was a new plant the previous season, this time of year is a great time to have a look at any supports the tree is using to see if it still needs them or if it’s ready to grow on its own. Additionally, any tree that’s under ten years of age could benefit from a good mulching, as it’s still in the process of forming deep roots.
Just make sure that when adding mulch near the base of your tree, that you leave a bit of space between the mulch and trunk to reduce the risk of moisture forming mold or encouraging fungal growth.
Preparing your shrubs for the springtime is a bit different from doing so for trees. If they haven’t started to bud yet, you can prune them to shape them if you would like, but if they’ve already started, it’s best not to.
In addition, if you have a shrub that you’ve been meaning to move, the best time to finally do so is while preparing your garden for spring planting. It will take a while to excavate their root structure, but this is essential for them to become healthily established in their new location.
In a landscape design like this in front of a French-inspired Ranch style home, it's important to keep on top of the trees and shrubs. Trimming the tree at the center of the home every year or two will ensure that it doesn't get too large and overpower the landscape and the house itself. Shearing the shrubs as needed will prevent the landscape plantings from looking overcrowded, and occasionally shearing or trimming the evergreens that flank the front door will maintain the ideal size ratio so they don't look overgrown as you approach the entrance.
Set up New Planters and Garden Beds
Spring is a time for new beginnings.
Because of this, if there are any new features you want to add to your garden this year – or any new plants that you’ve been keen to try out – this is the best time to install them, set up new planters, and create new garden beds, as they would then have the entirety of the season to take root and grow.
Create new landscape and garden beds, like these in the new landscape of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Country Ranch style home, in early spring so that the plants have the entire growing season to acclimate and establish themselves (Plan #142-1023).
Plant “Early” Seeds
Some plants need a bit more time to grow and develop than others do, so it’s okay to start planting them a bit earlier in the season. For example, you can start sowing seeds for plants like geraniums (pelargoniums), begonias, antirrhinums, peppers, and aubergines as early as February in some areas.
Other plants can also be planted indoors to get a head start and then later be moved out to the garden as the weather warms. These are generally things like “hardy” vegetables such as onions, potatoes, artichokes, as well as some lettuces. However, you should always take a look at the plant information for whatever you intend to plant to ensure best practice.
If you want to start some plants earlier than the local might allow, you can start growing the seeds indoors in planting trays. Once the seeds have germinated and grown over a few weeks, you can transplant them into your growing beds (photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash).
Most other plants, like bulbs and perennials, are easy to plant later on. Dig a hole, drop them in, and you’re done!
Planting season is just around the corner, so now you know how to make sure you’re ready. We wish you a healthy garden and amazing summer blooms.