Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring To-Do List for a Cold Climate Garden

I cannot wait to get back into the yard and garden this year. Especially given the amount of snow and cold we've had this winter in Chiberia. So many activities to get accomplished to both prepare my garden for a wonderful spring and start plants off strong!  I thought I would share the items on my list. Oh and please check out my Fall Cold-Climate Garden Checklist too.

Here's my spring to-do list for my Zone 5 /5b cold climate garden.  Check your frost/freeze dates by zip code on this website.

Spring Garden preparedness List:

  • Check the fence for repairs or digging (dogs :)  )
  • Check tools - repair, sharpen or replace
  • Check Garden machines for repair and maintenance (Lawn mower, rototiller, leaf blower, chainsaw)
  • Make sure I've got enough insecticidal soap, deer spray, dormant oil, fertilizer
  • Check repair or replace hoses (sprinklers, spray heads) and put out into yard. Order a truckload of wood chips (free from landscaping companies.)
  • Check that all drains are open and clear
  • Get free manure from local equestrian center
  • Find garden gloves and repair as needed
  • Check garden spray bottles used to apply chemicals

Spring Flower Garden To-Do List:
  • Remove old growth left in garden over winter. Remove winter mulch and rake out old leaves.
  • Start to harden any annuals which were overwintered indoors (get tips on this blog entry)
  • Check winter sowing (cone flower, shasta daisy, gaillardia, salvia)
  • Prepare seed bombs (get tips on this blog)  - place accordingly depending on the types of flowers you are using.
  • For flower beds (without perennials) dig out and amend soil as needed. Plant annuals after freeze date. Usually around May 10.
  • Cut back roses (I have aggressive growers that I decimate each spring)
  • Plant new flowers obtained!  Put sedums propagated indoors into the garden (check out my process here)
  • Pinch perennials as they grow to make them bushier - mums, asters
  • Place Irish Spring soap around hostas to prevent deer attack.  Place out slug traps. 
  • Make stakes (from wire hangers opened up and looped at one end) for peonies. Place out when plants are approximately 12 inches high (before blooms start) Disbud peonies for larger blooms.

Spring Garden To-Do List for Bulbs:
  • Plant bulbs, corms rhizomes and tubers stored over winter. (Mark with golf tees)
  • Fertilize bulbs which overwintered in ground as soon as leaves pop out. 
  • Transplant garlic (plants that grown from bits left over in ground from harvest)
  • Get stakes ready for lilies
  • Get a case of Irish Spring soap (used to keep deer away from plants - get more tips here)

Spring To-Do list for Herbs and Vegetables:
  • Plant rhubarb and asparagus (I'm getting from neighbor!) and harvest when young and tender.
  • March: Sow chives, fennel, peas
  • April: Sow swiss chad, sweet corn (grow in containers, here's how!), onion sets 
  • May: get crazy and put in all the other veggies
  • Put out collars of aluminum foil to fool cut worms (collect cans and try planting seedlings inside an aluminum can this year.)
Spring To-Do list for Shrubs and Trees:
  • Prune off diseased, damaged or broken stems. I have lots of dead branches on small shrubs after the bitter cold.
  • Plant new shrubs (ordering more native shrubs for the woodland restoration
  • Trim back long branches that may be broken by snow
  • Cut down woody parts of Butterfly Bush
  • Remove stake from limbs of Japanese Maple 
  • Fertilize those trees/shrubs not done in fall
  • Prune forsythia after blooming
  • Annual pruning of lilac and viburnam after they finish blooming. Remove 1/4 of the oldest stems all the way to the ground. Cut back overly long stems. My lilac is growing by a large fence, under an oak, and next to yews. It always gets leggy and needs fertilizer and pruning.
  • Cut back hedges after they complete the first flush of growth. Remove any brown/dead sections. 
  • Start hanging Irish Spring soap in shrubs which are not deer resistant.
  • Cut back burning bush, ornamental privet and dogwood. I'm cutting to within a few feet of the ground.
  • Apply fertilizer to lilac and hydrangea (my hydrangea never bloom without lots of help) 
  • Adapt Al and Ph of hydrangeas. This year I think I'll go blue. Adding aluminum sulfate and organic matter link coffee grounds and grass clippings
  • Mulch in trees
  • Cut down and remove invasives (buckthorn, honeysuckle, privet)
Spring To-Do list for Vines, Ground Cover & Ornamental Grasses:
  • Rake out beds to remove old, dead leaves.
  • Fertilize ground cover with 10-10-10 (mine need more than most)
  • Start using Preen as soon as snow melts to reduce weed growth in ivy beds (except ajuga)
  • Cut back vines from house, trees, walkways, and shrubs
  • Mow low ground cover with mower set to 3-4 inches. Do this just before budding starts. Remove clippings. 
  • Cut back trumpet vines (severe cut back)
  • Cut back clematis (your timing depends upon when your flowers BTW)
  • Treat euonymus vines and other ground cover with dormant oil to treat scale. 
  • Cut down any decorative grasses that were left standing for winter interest. 
  • Dig out hardy decorative grasses as needed to manage spread. Place some into containers to add height and fall color/interest.   
  • Check supports for clematis and climbing hydrangeas
  • Pull out invasives (buckthorn, poison ivy)

Spring To-Do list for Lawn:
  • Rake bare spots and seed. Cover with peat
  • Fill in holes with dirt (water and settling)
  • Fertilize if not done in the fall
  • Rake out old dead grass; aerate
I love Spring! It's a promise of good times ahead and so energizing to get back into the garden after the long cold winter. No shortage of activities to keep busy. I can always use a hand or a hint.

Today I'm singing with the birds who have returned to my garden! Chirp.


Teresa Marie

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