You want to be outside. The view from your window is starting to look greener and sunnier. So, here are six suggestions to be sure your yards and gardens are ready for spring.
Clean House… The Bird House
Returning birds need places to nest. Clean and disinfect your bird houses, remove soiled nesting materials and patch any holes to get them in order again. You may want to sanitize bird feeders at the same time.
Although you can hang bird houses for decoration any time of year, if you intend them to be functional, add new bird houses before birds return. That way they have plenty of pretty new homes to choose from at the start of nesting season. You can also put out “nest balls” in your yard as well. Nest balls are bundles of colorful fluff and bits of string set out for birds to find and use in nest building.
Note: If you have bat houses or bee houses as well, spring is not the time to clean them. Leave bats and beneficial pollinators undisturbed.
Prune and Plant Dormant Bushes
The early spring (late winter) before trees and bushes break dormancy is the perfect time for pruning. Hedgerows and ornamental plantings need just a light shaping to stay under control. Fruit trees should be pruned for easier picking of the fruits later.
It may still feel cold outside, but dormant plants like that. If you can work the soil enough to dig a hole, you can transplant and plant new trees and bushes now. This doesn’t work for tender annuals, but for woody shrubs the roots will be able to adjust under the soil aster for a head start on the growing season.
Check your Equipment
Stored away in your garage or garden shed are your garden tools. If you didn’t remember to clean and oil them over the winter, you can do it now. Shovels and shears should be sharpened as well. Make sure your pruners are articulating properly, and check for missing teeth on pruning saws.
It’s also a good idea to check that your lawn mower is in working order. If you use rotary cultivators or string trimmers, check them too, and double check that you have the appropriate fuels on hand.
Walk around and Plan Improvements
Before everything starts to fill in with greenery, take a walk around your garden to check for frost heave and other winter damage to pathways and patios. Fix any lose or uneven stones and pavement for better garden safety. If you have mulched pathways, now is a great time to add a fresh layer of mulch.
Take the opportunity to look at the overall layout of your landscaping — the "bones" of your garden. Decide if it’s meeting your usage needs. Perhaps you have more lawn than you use, but another seating area or hammock would be the perfect improvement. There are so many options when it comes to making a perfect outdoor space. You may want to add one of these options to your yard this year:
- Outdoor home theater
- Trellises or arbors for roses or grape vines
- Croquet lawn or game-play area
- Buffet area for outdoor BBQ
- Solar-powered water feature
- Raised beds for vegetables
- A firepit or a brick pizza oven
Prep your Pots
Examine your containers, pots and planters for cracks and chips. Left in the sun over the summers, plastic containers begin to show age and chip after a few years. Clay pots, though much heavier, last a bit longer than plastic. As long as they are emptied and protected from freezing over the winter. Whatever sort of containers you prefer to use, they will need fresh soil for spring, and fresh pretty plants too, of course.
A row of potted ornamental grasses creates an easy privacy screen. Container plantings are ideal for creating temporary screens and controlling more invasive plants, like mint. Don’t forget hanging baskets are another possibility for vegetables as well as flowers.
Test the Soil
Gardens regularly need soil amendments and fertilizers. To understand what your soil is like you should test it. There are basic soil test kits or meters you can find at most garden supply box stores or at your local nursery. Those will point you in the right direction to start. Contact your local extension offices for help with more comprehensive soil tests.
Poor plant performance is often a matter of nutrient balance. To keep things looking their best, you don’t want to overfeed or underfeed any of your plants. Pay attention to soil pH as well. For example, lilacs (base-lovers) and blueberry bushes (acid-lovers) need very different soil pH to thrive.
Don’t be afraid to try new things in your gardens. Whether your style is monochromatic and earthy shades of green, or you’re just wild about wild colors. Plump up the pillows, dig into the dirt, and get ready to enjoy the outdoors!