How to prepare your garden for spring

How to prepare your garden for spring

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

83 guides

The start of spring marks the beginning of a busy period in the garden. Between clearing leaves and trimming trees, mowing the lawn and cultivating the soil, there's plenty to do. A great garden starts with good preparation so let us take you through all the necessary steps from weeding to planting bulbs!

Important features

  • Trimming
  • Preparing the soil
  • Weeding
  • Sowing seeds
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  1. At the start of spring, turn over and rake the soil in any beds or borders containing perennials (such as heaths, potentilla, St. John's wort, etc.) and biennials (violets, daisies, etc.). This will help to aerate the soil and allow it to warm up more easily. Clean up your flowerbeds by getting rid of any dead leaves and clear around the base to encourage new growth. If your plants aren't in great shape, trim away any dead parts with pruning shears. If your plant looks like it's on its last legs, don't hesitate to cut it down to the base and let nature take care of the rest.
  2. Trim back any plants that have grown too tall.
  3. Check that the frost has not uprooted any of your plants and pack in soil around your plants as needed.
  4. Remove any protectivecovers from plants.
  5. Divide any perennials that have become overcrowded.
  6. Rock gardens must be weeded very early on as the soil around the rock heats up quickly in spring encouraging early weed growth.
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  1. Use pruning shears, branch cutters or a chainsaw to cut any branches that have been damaged by the wind or broken under the weight of ice. You can also use this time to prevent overcrowding by removing any overlapping branches.
  2. In March, trim any shrubs and hedges that need freshening up. Cut back any old wood to encourage new growth.
  3. Any garden waste can then be put through a garden shredder and incorporated into your compost pile or used as mulch.
  4. If you didn't already do so at the start of winter, trim your rose bushes before spring growth really takes off. As for climbing roses, it's best to keep the main branches intact while trimming back smaller offshoots.
  5. At the start of the season, your vegetation will begin to spring back to life and branches will start to grow. Secure all climbing plants such as honeysuckle, brambles and clematis.
  6. Wait until the sun has had enough time to warm up the ground properly before mulching your shrubs or roses.
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It's already too late to plant barefoot trees or shrubs in the ground, but you can still start some in pots! On the other hand, April is the best month to plant deciduous shrubs, climbing plants, roses and flowering shrubs like azaleas and rhododendron.

How to care for your bulbs

  • If you're starting in March, it's best to start your summer-flowering bulbs in either a greenhouse or in trays or planters placed in a warm dry spot before you transplant them to the ground in May.
  • Remove any wilted flowers from spring-flowering bulb plants, but leave the leaves untouched so that the plant continue to replenish itself.
  • Lilies can be planted in the ground in April.

Annual flowers: sowing seeds indoors and in pots

  • Loosen the soil in your flowerbeds (without turning it over) and add a light organic fertiliser.
  • Sow your annual seeds indoors or in the ground if frost is not a concern (for flowers like carnations, marigolds, etc).
  • More fragile plants like nasturtium and morning glory should be seeded in planters or trays.

Cleaning your pond before plant growth begins

  • Whether you have a decorative water feature or a simple pond, if your water feature needs a good cleaning it's best to do it before the weather warms up. This will help to protect your pond life as things come back to life in spring.
  • Get rid of any leaves, twigs or any other objects that may have fallen in the water.
  • Remove any aquatic plants that have become too invasive.
  • Check that your pond liner is still watertight and add any new plants as required.
  • If your water feature is equipped with a filtering system and pump, fire them up as soon as you notice the weather improving.
  • The start of spring is also an excellent time to add a new water feature to your garden.
  • Wait a few weeks after installing the feature – no earlier than May or early June – before adding any new aquatic plants or animals.
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April is generally the best month to sow a lawn from seed. Prepare the soil carefully before adding any seed; don't be tempted to do this too soon. Instead, you should wait for the first weeds to grow before tackling them with a hoe. At this point, you are ready to sprinkle your seed before tamping down the soil and watering on a sprinkler setting.For existing lawns, April is also the perfect time to dust off the lawnmower and get the first cut out of the way. You can also use a scarifier to freshen up the ground, especially after a very cold spell or if you have a lot of moss growth. Finish by top-dressing your lawn with a thin layer of mature compost.

If you are looking to weed a pathway or patio, you can, of course, turn to a professional weed killer. That said, some boiling hot water in a watering can may also do the trick and will have less of an environmental impact. Pure vinegar is only a good option for younger weeds. Remove any moss that may have emerged over the winter between slabs using a trowel.It's hard to resist the temptation to fill your garden with new plants as soon as the days start to brighten up! However, ice, snow and heavy winds are sure to have done some damage along the way so be sure to clear up and inspect your garden before the season really gets underway. Remember: the very best time to get your garden ready for the spring is when winter starts to draw to a close.

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Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 83 guides

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy.   At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood.   I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.