Late spring is that moment between your garden awakening as temperatures rise and rainfall increases, and kicking into high gear. If your plants are going to look their best through the summer growing season, it’s also time to seize the opportunity to get a handle on how your garden is performing and head off any problems before they have a chance to cause trouble for you and your plants.
Stop slugs in their (slimy) tracks.
Slugs and snails are especially fond of nibbling on young, fresh growth. If you aren’t a fan of using commercial repellents and pesticides, try setting out beer traps: pour a little beer in a pie tin, and leave a few tins in your garden. They’ll be attracted to the beer, and keep away from your prized plants.
Move potted plants outside.
With warm temperatures and no danger of frost, now is the best time to begin moving out any frost-tender plants you’ve overwintered indoors. Give them time to acclimate to outdoor temperatures and sunlight to avoid burning them or causing any leaf loss.
Clear out spring bedding plants.
Now that nurseries and garden centers are beginning to roll out their summer offerings, it’s a great time to remove tired, spring bedding plants and begin setting out summer plants. Remove and compost old plants, but be careful not to include any weeds in your compost — the seeds can end up distributed all over your garden.
Don’t forget your evergreens.
While evergreens seem to get the most attention in winter, spring is when they are actively growing. This makes it the best time to give them a little light fertilizing. Depending on your soil, this might not be a chore that needs repeating every spring, since most evergreens only need to be fed every other year or so in average-to-rich garden soil.
Test your soil.
Now is a good time to see how your soil is progressing. Assuming you added any soil amendments in fall, you should check on your soil’s nutrient profile now. If everything looks good, the most you’re likely to want is a little top dressing with manure, worm castings, or compost.
Take care of weeds.
As weeds begin perking up, remove them by hand. Thoroughly mulch to deprive them of light and keep them from growing, and be sure to cover unused areas of the garden to keep weed seeds from germinating and getting a foothold. Once established, some weeds (perennials in particular) can be a nightmare to remove — an ounce of prevention here will be worth a pound of cure in summer.
Do a little pruning.
Plants that flower on new growth are best pruned heavily in winter or early spring while they’re sill dormant, to encourage more new growth before they flower in summer. That said, winter- or spring-blooming plants that flower on older growth are best pruned lightly now, soon after they are done flowering. Don’t prune them back as hard as your summer-blooming plants, though, only back to the previous year’s growth.
Check your watering system.
Spring brings heavy rains to a lot of areas, so it can be tempting to forget about irrigation. Unfortunately, that can have disastrous consequences during a hot, dry summer. Check and make sure there aren’t any clogs, splits, or other damage to your irrigation system, and perform any necessary repairs now.
Replace plants that are performing poorly.
As growth ramps up in spring, it’s the best time to see which of your plants makes the cut — and which ones should be cut. Pull out any poorly-blooming plants and make plans to replace them.
The best gardens are those planned for year-round appeal, with a combination of plants that take turns showing off their best attributes from season to season. Even plants that are at their best in autumn or winter can benefit from a little attention now, while your spring- and summer-blooming plants will definitely appreciate some extra TLC this time of year.