As you plan your early spring chores, take a look at your garden soil. When a shovelful of soil crumbles in your hands, the soil is considered “workable.” If it’s still frozen, or soggy enough that a handful mushes into a ball, you should wait before plowing or digging.
Also take note of your last frost date and hardiness zone. As soon as the last frost has passed, you can begin planting summer bulbs and annuals and working outdoors in earnest.
Bare-root roses and shrubs can be planted while dormant.
Trees and Shrubs
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons after they bloom.
- Hold off on pruning birch, maple, and other “bleeding” trees until after the leaves develop.
- Clean up and prune trees and shrubs that have been broken by winter storms, but hold off on pruning frost and cold damage until growth starts, so you can see what’s able to recover.
- Plant bare-root and container-grown trees and shrubs.
- Begin fertilizing trees and shrubs once growth starts.
- Transplant trees and shrubs when the soil is workable, but before they leaf out.
- Prune and fertilize roses.
Remove winter mulch gradually to protect tender new growth.
Perennials and Bulbs
- Cut back overgrown or leggy perennials.
- Cut or mow ornamental grasses, being careful not to cut the short new growth.
- Plant, divide, and transplant perennials and ornamental grasses as soon as the soil is workable.
- Weed bulb beds, being careful not to disturb the bulbs.
- Replant any plants that have been pushed out of the ground by frost heaving.
- Remove any extra winter mulch from perennials gradually after the worst of the freezing weather has passed. Note the hardiness zone of the plant, and remove the mulch once temperatures have warmed to the minimum for that zone.
- Fertilize bulbs after blooming, with a bulb-boosting fertilizer or compost.
- Plant tender bulbs (such as caladium, dahlia, and tuberous begonia) after all danger of frost has passed.
- Prune overgrown vines once they have bloomed.