Springtime Garden Maintenance Guide

If you haven't done so already, now is definitely the time to take care of springtime garden maintenance. The following guide to pruning, feeding, weeding, and more, has all the info you need to get your beds and borders ready for a season of healthy, flowery abundance.


Shape your evergreens

Pruning boxwood shrub.
Image by aloha_17 courtesy iStock.

Shrubs have just put out new growth that can be uneven and leggy. Prune the long shoots to improve overall shape and encourage denser, fuller new growth.


Fertilize flowering plants

Plant-Tone and Rose-Tone (both by Espoma) are my favorite plant foods. Both are organic and very effective. Mix a scoop into the top layer of soil around the base of your plants and they'll thank you with a profusion of flowers.


Add a layer of mulch

I like to add a layer of mulch — about 2" thick — to all beds and borders this time of year. The soft woody topping regulates soil moisture and temperature. It also helps to prevent weed growth. Pine bark mulch is my favorite, but use whatever is available to you as long as it's not dyed. Read more about mulching throughout the year here.


Stay on top of weeding

Now that it's spring, weeds can literally appear overnight and have incredible growth rates. Pull them out by the root as soon as you notice them so that they don't steal precious light, water, space, and nutrients from the plants you're actually trying to grow.


How to tell if that new growth is a weed or one of your precious perennials? The best way to determine what to yank and what to leave be is to look at both size and grouping. Weeds tend to be smaller, at least at first, than the new growth of perennials. And perennials usually come up all together in a group at the crown of the plant, also called basal growth (see picture). Weeds will be scattered sporadically while perennials will (hopefully) appear in a more intentional formation.

Basal growth of a peony. Image by Marina Vedernikova courtesy iStock.
Basal growth of a peony. Image by Marina Vedernikova courtesy iStock.


Divide and transplant

Dividing perennials.
Image courtesy Garden Gate Magazine.

If you want to move some things around in your garden, or need to divide larger perennials (hosta, hellebores, iris, and sedum all benefit from this), now is the time. Be sure to give the plants lots of water before and after transplant or division, and pick a cooler day to lower the chance of stress.


Prep planters for herbs and annuals

For many of us, the time to plant tender herbs and annuals is now (or will be soon!) Get ahead of things by prepping your containers so they'll be ready for new plants. First, remove any spent plants or debris from last year and be sure to get all the roots out, too. Then, refresh the potting soil by removing at least half of the old and filling it up with new, nutrient-rich soil with a helping of compost mixed in. (You can also dump it all and start fresh with all new soil.) Lastly, clean off the saucers if your planters have them to make sure they are not moldy or full of debris.