Class Handout: Prepping the Spring Garden

Lawn Care
  • Check for salt damage on turf & evergreens. Apply gypsum to soil to try and counteract harmful effect of sodium-based deicing products.
  • Raking - Remove leaves and winter litter as needed.                        
  • Seeding - Whether overseeding thin lawns or seeding bare areas create furrows to catch the seed. Don’t bury the seed and don’t cover with peat moss!    
  • Fertilizing - First application can go down as turf is coming out of dormancy. Examples: Lawn Restore (10-0-6), Espoma Lawn Fertilizer (18-0-3), Nature Safe (18-0-4), Espoma Organic Lawn Food (9-0-0), Milorganite (5-2-0). Consider including a crabgrass pre-emergent.                                                                                      
Bed prep for annual, vegetable beds
  • Finish cutting back anything you left up for winter interest. Do as early as possible to avoid damaging emerging perennials.
  • Some evergreen perennials may need to be neatened up and winter-tattered leaves removed.
    • Ex: Bergenia, Ferns, Hellebores, Heucheras.
  • Don’t do anything to:
    • Creeping phlox
    • Oriental poppy
    • Iberis as examples.
  • Put hoops, rings, peony cages, and support structures that plants have to grow through in place now.
  • Apply organic fertilizers like Dr. Earth Bud & Bloom Booster (4-10-7) or Espoma Flower-tone (3-4-5) per label directions.
  • Apply 1-2” layer of growing season mulch. Ex: Chalet leaf mulch, cotton burr compost.
  • Consider preventative applications of fungicides to disease-susceptible perennials as stems emerge from dormancy.             
  • Apply Sluggo to newly emerged hostas and ligularia when air temperatures reach 70° F. or higher to reduce slug damage.     
  • Apply pre-emergent control products before weed seedlings show up.
  • Consider repellents (Plantskydd or Repels-All Spray and Spray with Hose ) if you’ve had deer or rabbit issues. High profile spring targets are newly emerging: hostas, roses and daylilies.
  • As daytime temperatures stabilize in the 40s and the overwintering mulch thaws, start deconstructing the mound. Spread to use as summer mulch.
  • Prune when reddish-pink buds start swelling enough to give you a sense of what’s alive and what isn’t. Look for the junction where dead (brown) tips become green stems.
  • The harder you prune, the more stems you will get. Prune to an outward facing, swelling bud on green stems to direct growth.
  • Dispose of any leaf debris from the previous year to reduce potential disease start-up.
  • Make first fertilizer application (see Perennial fertilizer recommendations or Bayer All-in-One Rose & Flower Care-a fertilizer, insect and disease control) when you have fully opened leaves.
  • If your rose bed is unmulched apply 1-2” Chalet leaf mulch, Cotton Burr Compost or shredded pine mulch.
Spring flowering bulbs 
  • Rake off any wind-blown debris.
  • Apply fertilizer to the bed as foliage peeks out. Bulb-tone (3-5-3) is a good analysis for spring flowering bulbs.
  • Consider repellents (Plantskydd or Repels-All Spray and Spray with Hose ) if you fear deer or rabbit issues- tulips and crocus can be targets.         
Ground cover
  • If you covered with evergreen boughs for winter remove now.
  • Cut out/back any winter burn to English ivy. Thin, if necessary, to improve air circulation.
  • Remove as much leaf accumulation as possible in all ground covers to reduce the likelihood of future disease problems.
  • Check: Euonymus for scale and Pachysandra for stem blight. Respond accordingly.
Trees & Shrubs
  • Remove tree wrap, protective trunk cylinders, burlap screens.
  • Check for broken branches, dead plants. Any time there is dead wood it needs to be removed. Use proper pruning techniques!
  • Maintenance pruning rule - If it blooms before July 1 it’s blooming on last summer’s growth and shouldn’t be pruned unless you’re willing to sacrifice flowers.
  • If it blooms after July 1 it’s blooming on spring and early summer growth and can be pruned late winter or early spring with no loss of flowers.
  • Know your plants, learn their susceptibilities. Ex: Older crabapples tend to be scab-prone (disease). It can be controlled with preventative fungicide applications as the leaves start emerging.
  • Apply sulfur to acid-loving plants: azaleas, blueberries, hollies, rhododendrons and hydrangeas (if you want pink varieties to be blue) to acidify our alkaline soils. Must be applied directly to bare soil, not over mulch, to affect a change in pH.
  • Fertilize as desired with Espoma Tree-tone (6-3-2) or Holly-tone (4-3-4).
  • After winter debris has been cleared it’s time to beef up mulch. Apply a 2” layer of shredded hardwood or pine, chunk bark, leaf mulch or cotton burr compost. Leave a donut-sized opening around the trunks of trees or the stems of shrubs.
  • Apply pre-emergent weed control to beds before weeds show up.