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Early Spring Gardening Tips

It’s officially the first day of spring! Here in Roanoke, Virginia, the new season is already showing off some of its color. Tulips and winter jasmine are blooming in garden beds, and a few trees are producing bright green buds and curled flowers—sure signs that the landscape is coming back to life. Still, winter has no intention of letting go just yet. A formidable snowfall is in the forecast, and more winter weather is possible this weekend, despite the seasonably warm days we’ve been having the last few weeks. As the weather continues to inspire surprise and frustration, many of us are wondering when we’ll have the chance to work on our spring gardens. After the snow clears and the temperature rises, there will be plenty of prep to do for the long and fruitful season ahead. Here are some tips on where to start:

Early spring gardening tips

Photo by Florian Lehmuth.

Shaping Your Spring Garden

Before you start planting and reworking your garden, you should do a thorough clean-up. Winter weather likely knocked debris into your yard. Left alone, that debris could harbor unwelcome pests and plant diseases. Be sure to pick up rotted leaves, tree branches, and other kinds of clutter.

You can now start planting fruit trees and shrubs, potatoes, and shade trees and vines. Cold-hardy plants like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, as well as plants started inside can now be transplanted outside into vegetable beds.

Early spring is a great time for pruning. You can prune flowering trees and shrubs like crepe myrtle and butterfly bush and cut back ornamental grasses. If you have a compost pile, now is a good time to turn the compost and prepare it for distribution.

There is a lot of garden planning that needs to be done in the early spring. On cold days, consider taking inventory of your garden tools and replacing any that need replaced. You can also start ordering summer fruit and vegetable seeds to be planted later in the season. And if you haven’t yet, order garden soil, mulch, and compost.

Broadleaf weeds like clover, dandelions, and chick weed run rampant in yards and gardens this time of year. Nip the problem in the bud and start controlling for these pesky infiltrators now, before they choke out your spring harvest. If pulling weeds, pull them at the root so they don’t regrow. If using a chemical solution, read environmental warning labels and be aware of the potential contamination risks that come with using herbicides.

The weather is likely to change considerably over the next couple of months, with gradually warmer days intermingling with cold, winter-like spells. To protect vulnerable young plants, consider keeping roots safe by putting a soil covering (ie. mulch) over your beds. Mulching beds can help keep root temperatures steady, even as ground temperatures fluctuate.

Unfortunately, March typically means it’s time to start mowing again. Ample moisture and warmer temperatures will bring the grass back to life in no time and, to keep it looking green and healthy, you have to trim it regularly. If you haven’t used your mower in months, it’s probably worth taking it for a test run to ensure it doesn’t need any pre-season maintenance.

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