hand holding soil and small seedling

Finally, the hard freeze of the ground is behind (for most of us) and thoughts return to sun-dappled outdoor afternoons. If you’ve got your own swathe of greenspace in a yard or garden, there are some spring cleaning chores awaiting as nature comes surging back to life.

Obviously where you live will affect the specifics of your yard and garden spring clean, but here are some evergreen ideas that pertain to just about everyone.

  • If you winterized with burlap or other frost protection, remove that now and set those branches and stems free!
  • Now that you’ve uncovered your trees and shrubs, you may discover some winter funkiness set in and there are a few casualties. Trim back dead branches and dried down perennials to make room for fresh buds and growth. If you have annuals still in the ground from last year, take them out now, again making way for fresh seasonal growth.
  • Ornamental grasses want a spring haircut. Prune back to just a few inches and soon new growth will soon explode right through like a firework. Now is also the time to thin and divide those thick-stemmed border plants like hosta, day lilies, and callalillies—leave three or more stems per clump and transplant the rest.
  • Ahhh, the roses. You probably winterized and pruned them back hard before frost, but snow and ice may still have blackened some of the canes—trim those back to about an inch below the damage. If there are gnarled woody canes, clip those now, too, so new green canes receive the majority of the plant’s energy and nutrients.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” ~Audrey Hepburn

  • Just like us, plants wake up from their slumber hungry! Fertilize borders and beds with pellet fertilizer now, working it into the top inch or two of soil. If smaller plants have heaved up with the freeze, tamp them down to level.
  • You’ve brought some order back to planting beds, so now you can spiff them up and dress them in preparation of sun and hot days. Clean them out first, raking away leaves and organic debris (save that matter for the compost pile or bin—time to get that going too! Be sure to aerate regularly and check to be sure it remains lightly moist, not wet). Now spread new mulch in your beds for the visual impact as well as much needed moisture retention when hot weather returns—and even though it may not feel like it today, hot weather will, indeed, return!

“Earth laughs in flowers” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • How’s the lawn looking? Break out the rake and small hand trowel and remove dead or damaged patches of grass/turf so you’re ready for spring re-seeding. Depending on your grow zone, it might be time to do that re-seed and also time to perform the year’s first fertilization and crabgrass/weed treatment (read labels carefully—look for organic fertilizer options and manually weed to avoid pesticides and herbicides that have much farther reaching deleterious results than anyone originally anticipated). Get ahead of the weeding now so new grass shoots can fill in. If you are in the north/cold winter zones, you may have a few weeks before you tackle this step.
  • How are all your edges and borders looking in the fresh spring light? If you have stone, wood, or plastic border stripping, you’ll likely have a few stakes to re-pound to neaten those up. Walkways and pavers may have jostled loose with snow shovels and ice—re-set them now and backfill gravel, sand, or stone dust between them as needed. If your area is prone to moss and algae, it’s pressure washer time to get a clean start on Spring (and eliminate the hazard that can cause slips and falls).
  • Fences and wood railings might need a touch of sprucing. You’ll be amazed what a fresh coat of paint or stain can do, and now is the time before plants grow up in front again, and make areas tougher to reach.
  • Dust off your garden gnomes and lawn flamingos and call over a bunch of friends and family—it’s garden party time!

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing


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