Preparing your garden for Spring [free checklist]

Now that the Christmas season is over and Spring is fast approaching, many of us will start thinking about preparing our gardens ready for Spring planting. No sooner has Christmas gone and it’s already time to start getting the garden ready for the year. Where does the time go?

Fortuntely, even though we are still in Winter, there are a lot of things you can get started with already to help prepare your garden ready for Spring planting. Especially as you will need to start planting the majority of your Summer flowering plants soon, such as perennials and annuals.

With the shorter days and colder weather, many of us will have been detered from making much of an effort in the garden throughout Winter. Lots of cleaning and tidying up may therefore be in order to start preparing your garden. There are also some seeds and bulbs that you could consider planting early to get a head start.

So without further ado, here are some tips to start preparing for Spring so everything is ready for the glorious Summer.

Ways you can prepare you garden ready for Spring

Throughout January to March, there are lots of jobs you can get started with in the garden. Some of the steps to prepare your garden can be started straight away, while others may need to wait a little longer. Outlined below are all the tasks you can do to prepare your garden ready for Spring, and when best to carry each task out. There is also a handy checklist at the end of the article that you can use, splitting each job into separate months.

Prepare plants and flowers

One of the first (and most important) tasks you can do to get your garden ready for Spring is preparing your plants and flowers. After all, our gardens wouldn’t look great without them!

1.      Buy bulbs and seeds ready for planting

Firstly, buying your bulbs and seeds ready for planting is one of the first steps you can take to start preparing your garden. This is something that you can do straight away. You may have also saved some seeds and bulbs from last year and, if so, getting these ready is something you can start right away too. Once you have your seeds and bulbs ready, you can begin planting in March. To help you keep organised once you plant your seeds and bulbs, consider creating a planting calendar. It can be something as simple as just noting when and where you planted the seeds.

2.      Start planting early

You can begin planting your seeds early, preferably in February. If you have a propagator or greenhouse, you can store the plants there in order to give them a head start. Use trays or pots you have left over from last year and make sure they receive plenty of light and are watered regularly. About a week before you plant them, harden off the seedlings by moving them outdoors for increasing increments so they can adjust to the outdoor climate. Remember to label the seeds and bulbs you plant, so you don’t forget. You could also stake any perennials that are sprouting to provide extra protection against the wind. Just remember not to leave plants staked for too long as they can become depended on the support.

3.      Protect any flowering plants from frost

January and February can bring some of the coldest weather of the year, especially when we experience frost or snow. This cold weather can be particularly bad news for any plants you currently have out in the garden. Cover them with protective netting using either horticultural fleece or bubble wrap and secure with string. Protecting your flowers from frost is a job that needs to be done straight away.

4.      Prune plants

Trees and shrubs may have overgrown a little during the Winter months, so giving them a decent prune is a good idea. Pruning plants, such as roses, is something you can start to do in March. Consider which trees and shrubs you should prune and when. The Royal Horticultural Society provides a guide for when best to prune your plants, just remember to clean your secateurs before and after pruning. You could also give the plants a little fertiliser afterwards to help with healing and growth.

5.      Add mulch/fertiliser

Adding mulch or fertiliser is one the best things you can do to your soil. As most of the nutrients in the soil will have undoubtedly been lost since last year, adding mulch or fertiliser will help to add the nutrients back in. It will also help to improve the soil structure and helps the much needed beneficial insects and microorganisms to thrive. Be mindful about adding mulch and fertiliser to your garden too early though, as the wet weather common in February and March could wash it away before it’s needed. Consider adding mulch or fertiliser in March. Add a thin layer to the top of the soil before turning it in to a depth of about 6 inches.

Maintain features and fencing

1.      Look after garden features

Garden features may look a little worse for wear after everything mother nature has thrown at them over the autumn and winter. Whether it be water features or decorative, looking after these features will help make sure your garden looks the best it can. Looking after your garden features is something to get on with during March, once the colder weather is behind us.

2.      Cut back overgrown hedgerows

To help keep your garden looking the best it can, overgrown hedgerows will need trimming back. If they have not been attended to since last season, hedgerows and trees can look messy and unappealing. Giving them a trim will help to keep them looking good while also helping to protect your plants and garden too. Cutting back the hedgerows is another task that you can do anytime between now and Spring, although they will undoubtedly require attention again once they start to overgrow.

3.      Clean the garden furniture

As with the garden features, your garden furniture may need some attention. Plastic garden furniture can be cleaned easily using soap and water. However, furniture made of wood may need more careful attention to prevent rot and mould. With wooden furniture, starting with a simple clean first before giving it a coating of wood preserver, can help it to last longer. To ensure wood stays looking good, consider cleaning and adding preservative straight away (providing the wood is dry) to protect it during the cold weather. Other garden furniture can wait till March for cleaning once the weather improves.

4.      Paint and tidy fences and gates

The winter elements may leave fences and gates looking a little worse for wear and requiring some attention. To keep your fences and gates in good working order, give them fresh lick of paint. Make sure to wipe them down and remove any excess dirt first before painting. Any other garden features that have also been painted could do with the same attention too. At the same time, repair any damage that may have occurred to keep out hungry animals that may want to feast on your vegetable crop. Painting and tidying fences are jobs best done in March when most of the wet and cold weather is behind us.

5.      Wash out the greenhouse

Greenhouses or propagators can be great for growing plants and vegetables. However, it also does mean that they are likely to require cleaning out before the start of each new season. Do this before you use them for growing plants as there could be some lingering pests that will ruin your crop. Sweep the tops and floor and wash down the glass. Once you have cleaned out the greenhouse, ventilate it for a few days before planting. Cleaning your greenhouse is something you can start right away in January before starting early plant growth.

General tidy-up

1.      Clean-up flower beds and planters

Plants like tidy environments to grow in. Flower beds and planters will probably require some attention to tidy them up ready for planting. Removing any dead growth or other debris that may have fallen will help plant growth and make the garden look much better. Consider cleaning-up flower beds and planters in late February to early March.

2.      Clean your gardening tools

As your gardening tools are exposed to the elements and soil, they will undoubtedly require some care and attention. Cleaning your gardening tools is something you can start in January to get everything ready for when you need them. Removing any rust that may be present (leaving the tools to soak in white vinegar overnight then scrubbing them is a useful tip!). Sharpen any spades, cutters, and trowels to make other jobs easier and clean any muck and soil that may be lingering to prevent disease, fungus or insect eggs spreading.

3.      Remove weeds

An unwelcome guest in anyone’s garden, weeds can take away the moisture and nutrients that other plants require for growth. No doubt over Winter, weeds will have taken a firm hold (unless you have already taken time to remove them). Removing the weeds from your soil patches and planters will help make sure that plants get everything they need to stay healthy. Consider removing weeds in February when the soil is slightly dry. Removing weeds when soil is wet can damage soil structure. It also gives plenty of time for any remaining weeds to sprout before you begin planting your flowers.

4.      Pick up any fallen leaves and other debris

Throughout the autumn and winter when we were enjoying our time inside out of the cold, gardens will unfortunately have attracted leaves and other fallen debris. Garden beds, lawns and other nooks and crannies will have some fallen leaves. If any of these are still lingering, don’t throw them away just yet as collecting the leaves and storing them can make excellent compost for later. Collect them and store them away somewhere safe. Picking up any fallen leaves is a task to begin straight away.

5.      Look after your lawn

During Winter our lawns will have been left due to the wet and cold weather. Giving them a fresh mow and scarifying the ground will help to keep your lawn in tip-top condition. Any bare patches can also benefit from planting grass seeds during this time as well as levelling off areas that are uneven. Lawn care is something you can begin during March, once the lawns have had enough time to dry out a little, allowing for a better cut.

Finishing touches

1.      Collect rainwater

Gardens can suffer from drought in the long hot summer weather. Starting to collect rainwater now in January will provide you with a large store ready for any long periods of hot weather. It also helps cut down on water bills too. Waterbutts are the most common way to collect rainwaters by creating an attachment to your guttering downpipe. Waterbutts come in a variety of sizes where you can simply get whatever water you require by the switch of a tap. Your plants will thank you in the long run.

2.      Start your compost

Using compost in your garden is a great way to add nutrients to your soil. If you don’t already have a compost pile in place, consider starting one for this year straight away. It is a good way to cut down on the cost of fertiliser and makes good use of any food or garden waste. Smell can be a big concern for compost heaps. Check out some tips for managing compost odours.

3.      Tidy up the shed

The shed can be a handy place to store all your gardening gear.  Tidying up the shed and making things easier to find will make your life much easier, as you start to become more active in the garden. It will also be a good indicator of anything that is running short, giving you plenty of time to replenish your supplies. Tidying up the shed is a job you can get started with in January (the same time as you clean your gardening tools).

4.      Get rid of any pests

Garden pests that could ruin your plants will have hibernated over Winter. You’ll want to remove pests such as slugs and snails before they have the opportunity of feasting on your greenery. Pests can ruin your plants just as well as any disease. Check any current plants in the garden to see if there are any pests lingering and use a pest treatment to help get rid of those unwelcome visitors! This is a job that may need your attention until the Spring, so keep an eye on this now right up until March.

5.      Wash pots to prevent diseases spreading

Any pots or planters you used last year will need to be washed out before reusing them, to prevent disease or fungus spreading. Washing your pots out is especially important if you plan on using them to get a head start with your planting. These pots should be washed out now in January before you start to plant anything in them.

Our handy checklist to help you prepare your garden ready for Spring

A handy checklist has been put together to provide a breakdown of the things covered above to prepare your garden ready for Spring. You can download by right-clicking and selecting "save image as".