Just like the inside of your home, your gardens and lawn will benefit from a good spring cleaning too. As soon as the snow disappears from your lawn and garden you can start the spring cleaning.
Spring Lawn Care
When your lawn is dry (not spongy to walk on) give it a good rake to remove all the dead grass and leaves. Core aeration is recommended after raking to allow oxygen and nutrients to penetrate into the root system of your lawn, especially if your soil is heavily compacted.(as most lawns are in this area) Core aeration is also effective in the fall, one less thing to do in spring.
If your lawn has a lot of crabgrass and broad-leaf weeds (dandelions) you can treat it to a weed and feed product. The ones containing corn gluten are particularly effective if used before the weed seeds have a chance to germinate. I sprinkle corn gluten right on the snow when there is only a small amount of snow left on my lawn because as soon as the snow is gone, the weeds start to germinate and within a few days the crabgrass growth is visible.
You can also overseed your lawn now (but only if you have NOT applied something for weeds, otherwise wait 6 weeks to seed) by raking in topsoil and sprinkling grass seed on the soil. This is best done before a rainy spell as the seeds should be kept wet until they germinate.
Clean Debris out of your Gardens
Your gardens can also use a good raking early, but be sure to use a plastic rake and a gentler touch, so tender dormant perennials are not damaged. Remove all the dead, but still intact leaves, last year’s annual (annuals are plants that you must replant each year) plantings, and the twiggy pieces of last year’s growth on the perennials (perennials are plants that come back on their own each year). Generally speaking, if the twiggy pieces break off easily with a gentle rake, it is safe to remove them.
Woodier perennials (lavender, sage, hibiscus etc) need a bit more time to rebound from winter and should not be cut back until new growth is visible. Spring cleaning on those fussier perennials should wait.
Prune Shrubs, Divide and Plant Perennials
Shrubs that bloom in summer or fall (weigela, pink spirea, burning bush etc) can be pruned in early spring, while those that bloom early in spring (forsythia, lilacs, magnolia etc) should not be pruned until after they bloom.
Dividing perennials is best done this time of year too; dig up the overgrown clumps, divide them with a sharp spade, and plant them in their new locations. Fill in bare spots with new perennials. These jobs can be done as soon as the ground thaws.
Annuals, however, should not be planted until the danger of overnight frost is gone, usually late May in this area.
Amend Your Garden Soil and add Mulch
Once all of my perennials have re-emerged, the weeds and old annuals are removed, and the necessary pruning is done, I like to amend the soil around them with soil, compost, and peat moss. This triple mix product can be purchased already combined.
A layer of cedar mulch (I prefer dark brown or black) is the final touch, but to prevent your plants from rotting, be sure not to apply the mulch too close to the base/stalks/stems of the plants.
The last step in spring cleaning your gardens is to retrieve the outdoor furniture and whimsical touches from their winter storage. Then enjoy the most important part, take a few minutes out of your busy life to sit down, relax and admire your efforts…