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    The garden is waking up, and you're in charge! It's time to start planting, pruning, and preparing your flower beds. 

    Just like giving your house a good spring cleaning to help freshen it up after a long winter, you can take a similar approach to your yard to get it back in shape for the warmer months. Even after the snow and ice melts, it can be a little overwhelming to tackle all the work that needs to be done for a picture-perfect spring landscape. Use this checklist to help pace yourself as you get your flower beds, trees, shrubs, and other areas of your yard cleaned up. It's broken down into early, mid-, and late spring so you can plan out your garden clean-up tasks and hit each area of your landscape before summer arrives.

    Early Spring

    When you're first getting back out into your garden after the winter, start with these tasks to get your yard ready for spring and the growing season ahead.

    1. Clean up flower beds

    Clear away dead leaves or any other debris from winter storms from the soil surface where you are planning to plant annual flowers and veggies. Remove protective winter mulch from around perennials and ornamental grasses (hedge trimmers make it easy to give grass clumps a clean, even look), and cut back last year's dried foliage. Remember to wear gardening gloves, especially when working with plants with prickly leaves such as lungwort, to keep your hands protected from cuts and scrapes.

    2. Divide perennials

    A good time to divide many perennials is just before their spring growth has begun. Dividing perennials is a budget-friendly way to fill your garden with more plants or share them with friends. It's also good for keeping your existing perennials healthy; sometimes, if your plants grow in a large clump, the middle can thin out after a few years, leaving a bare spot. Dividing the clump will encourage new growth.

    3. Add fresh mulch around perennials

    One of the easiest ways to make your yard look polished is to add a fresh layer of mulch to garden beds. This also helps the soil retain moisture for your plants, and keeps down weeds. It often takes more mulch than it seems to cover a bed, so it's a good idea to get a little more than you think you'll need or you'll likely end up having to go back to the store. Spread mulch evenly with your gloved hands or use a rake, being careful not to layer it on too thickly around your plants because this could cause problems such as diseases. Keeping the layer level also helps it stay in place whenever it rains heavily or is windy. (If you have downspouts that tend to wash away mulch, one fix is to remove mulch where rainwater empties, and replace it with river rocks).

    4. Prune trees and shrubs

    Now is the time to trim fruit trees if you didn't prune in winter. Prune before buds begin to break into bloom or you'll stress the tree and get a tiny crop (or possibly none). It's also a good time to prune summer-blooming trees and shrubs, like potentilla and butterfly bush, just before they push out new growth.

    5. Perform basic maintenance of hardscaping

    Check stonework for frost heaves, particularly in paths and edging. Check the general condition of your deck or patio and make any needed repairs. Clean off outdoor furniture so it's ready when you are for relaxing after a busy day in the garden.

    6. Plant veggies

    Hardy, cool-season vegetables, like potatoes, artichokes, peas, and some lettuces, germinate best in cool soil, so plant them in early spring once the soil has thawed. They should be ready to harvest by early summer.



    Halfway through the season, you should start seeing your spring landscape take shape as more and more bulbs, perennials, shrubs, and trees start growing again and even blooming. And with most of the clean-up done, you can get started on adding new plants to your garden.

    1. Clean bird feeders

    Some people like to take down their bird feeders in mid-spring and put them away until fall. If you want to leave them up year-round, now's a good time to take them down, wash them out, and fill them up with fresh seed or nectar for spring.

    2. Plant new perennials and cold-hardy annuals

    Freshly planted perennials need a little time to get settled and grow new roots before the hot summer weather hits. And for some quick color, add a few cool-season annuals like pansies or snapdragons around your yard. They also work well in containers to brighten up your front porch.

    3. Add new trees and shrubs

    Plant as soon as the ground isn't frozen anymore. The earlier you can do this, the better, so your trees and shrubs have enough time to grow new roots before temperatures start getting hot.

    4. Apply mulch

    Once you're finished planting, add a fresh layer of mulch around all your new plants. If you mulch now before weeds have a chance to sprout, you'll have next-to-no weeding come summer.



    Late Spring

    In late spring, you can start cleaning up flowers that have already bloomed. It's also time to get planting in earnest to fill out your garden.

    1. Deadhead bulbs

    Remove spent blossoms from spring-flowering bulbs; this encourages the plants to store energy for next year rather than use it to make seeds. Be sure to let the foliage die back on its own without removing it until it is completely yellow or dried up.

    2. Shop for summer annuals

    Pick out flats of your favorite summer annuals like petunias, impatiens, and zinnias; remember to pick ones that aren't in bloom yet for stronger plants.

    3. Start warm-season veggies

    While you're harvesting the radishes and lettuces you sowed earlier in the spring, you can transplant seedlings of warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and all sorts of herbs.

    4. Plant summer-blooming bulbs

    While spring-blooming bulbs should be planted in the fall, summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias and gladiolus should be planted once there's no more threat of frost. Check your area's average last frost date for a general idea of when to plant these bulbs, then get them in the ground after the last frost once the ground has warmed up.

    With this spring landscaping checklist, you'll have one of the best-looking gardens on the block. While there are still a few maintenance chores you should do every season, once you power through these tasks early on, you'll have more time to kick back and enjoy your landscape over the summer.


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