Tips For Early Spring Gardening

by Judi on March 14, 2015

We have had some beautiful balmy weather in Western Wisconsin this first part of March and today hit 70 degrees!  The winter came in early this year and was especially cold so nice to step outside without a coat and gloves!

Everyone I talk to is getting anxious to be outside and working in their gardens again. Well, please hold off on anything in the flower beds!  Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get anything accomplished, other than picking up sticks and trash off your lawn.

While you might be ready for spring, your plants may not be ready to come out of the ground. You might want to look at attending some upcoming local spring gardening events instead to put you in the mood.  There are greenhouses that give programs on new varieties they will be selling, both vegetable varieties and floral varieties..  Call your local greenhouses and ask  if they are giving any programs.  Most of these are at no charge.

If you do want to get outside and get back in your garden, here are a few tips for early spring gardening in a zone 4 climate:

Wait With These Items

  • Wait with the raking until the frost is out and the soil has settled down and dried out. The frost is coming out at this point and raking the grass will pull out roots and damage the plant. Be patient.
  • Don’t fertilize the lawn yet.  You will just be wasting your money and your time. The plant isn’t growing yet, it is still dormant, so it can’t take nutrients up in the root system. Spring rains will wash away the fertilizer making it unusable to the grass plant when it needs it.  Late May is the earliest you should be thinking of putting fertilizer on your lawn, if it needs it at all.
  • Don’t uncover mulch from perennials for a long time yet. Remember, the ground is still frozen under the leaves.  We live in zone 4 and we could still have major snowstorms as well as frosts into May. Let the plants stay snug in their beds for at least another month.
  • Don’t walk in the beds when the frost is coming out.  It can compact the soil and make for a poor environment for that perennial bed.
  • Some plants like Autumn Joy Sedum come up very early and you can even see the little rosettes in the late fall for the next year.  It doesn’t mean that they are going to start to grow.  They are just resting for when it does get warmer.
  • It will be about 2 months until the middle May until the last frost date is for this area so, Be Patient!  Summer will come soon.

Here’s What You Can Do Instead

  • Cut off “winter interest” plants that were left last fall This is a perfect time for that.
  • Prune small shrubs too as they are still dormant.  (don’t prune shrubs that bloom early in the season like Lilacs.  Those should be pruned immediately after blooming).
  • Clean the garage out and get tools ready for the summer.
  • Wash the outside of buildings, or anything that has gotten dirty over the winter.
  • Wash those dirty windows too!

Again, be patient please!  It will pay off for the well being of your plants. Remember, most years, we don’t have this nice warm weather until the middle of April, if even then!

I have also written another article on spring garden preparation with more information here.

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