cherry bossoms

Spring garden to-do’s

Happy Spring! In case you’re a little behind because of this month’s rain, here are some tips for the spring organic garden:

Lawns

  • Rake excess leaves and thatch from lawns. If possible, delay aerating until fall, as it brings many weed seeds to the surface.
  • If you can, wait until fall to start new lawns from seed to avoid weeds taking over.  Sod lawns are ok.
  • When forsythia blooms, apply corn gluten to lawns as a nitrogen source and crab-grass preventative or overseed lawns to thicken turf.
  • Define edges as needed.
  • Sharpen mower blades, and begin mowing lawns when grass is 3 to 3-1/2 inches high.

Planting beds

  • Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses.  To promote beneficial insects, spread dried stalks in a “wild” area of the garden, as they shelter eggs and larvae.
  • Apply compost to the rootzone of perennials, shrubs, and trees.
  • Shredded and composted leaves make an excellent mulch, or you may add 2″ of bark mulch to planting beds.
  • It’s safe to begin planting perennials when the ground has thawed and soil temperature is about 50 degrees.
  • Take a soil test and prepare new beds based on soil lab recommendations. UMass or your local Cooperative Extension are good resources.

Trees & Shrubs

  • Avoid pruning spring-flowering shrubs (other than dead branches) until after they have bloomed.
  • Prune late summer-blooming shrubs now, keeping in mind that some (like Buddleia and Callicarpa) can fool you with their late leaf-out.
  • Remove only the oldest woody stems from old-fashioned hydrangeas.  Hard pruning will sacrifice this year’s blooms!

Vegetables

  • Start cool-weather crops (onions, garlic, peas, greens…) and indoor seeds.
  • Build raised beds.  4’x8’x12″ is a great size for a beginning home garden.  Line the bottom with hardware cloth (wire mesh) if you are concerned about burrowing animals making off with your goodies!

Outdoor Living

  • Check gutters, downspouts, rain barrels, and drainage systems before spring rains start.
  • Inspect roofs, driveways, walls, and curbing for damage from winter storms and snow removal.
  • Seal cracks in driveways and walkways.
  • Schedule an irrigation audit and system start-up.  Read up on water-saving technologies like drip irrigation and weather sensors.
  • Clean and repair lawn and garden tools, patio furniture, grills, and other stuff that you will want ready for summer enjoyment.