12 Must-Do Spring Cleaning Chores for Your Garden

You’ll probably be in your garden as soon as the weather warms up. It’s fine to clean up branches and other debris. However, you should wait until the soil has dried enough for it not to be able form a ball when in your hands before compacting and walking on it. Don’t delay too much in cleaning up. You can cut back plants much more easily before old growth becomes tangled with new growth. Follow these tips to create a beautiful spring or summer garden.


Cut back your perennial flowers and remove the mulch
Closeup of perennial flower bush being pruned in red pot with sheers

First, remove and compost any annual plants that died over the winter. They will not come back, and self-seeders will have already done their work.

You’ll probably notice that your perennials look a lot worse in the spring if you haven’t pruned them back last fall. For extra protection, many perennials like to remain standing through the winter. Herbaceous perennials, however, will fall to the ground in winter. Once you see new growth around the base of your perennials, you can remove the winter mulch.


Cut back woody perennial flowers and plants
How to prune perennial plants and shrubs

Some shrubby plants (artemisias, caryopteriss, lavenders, etc.) have woody stems. Each spring, they need to be pruned because only new branches bloom. They are pruned each spring to prevent winter damage and encourage new branch growth. Wait until there is no danger of hard frost. The woody perennials usually show signs of new growth or opening buds at the base and lower portions of the stems when it is time to prune.


Trim evergreen and semi-evergreen perennial plants
Closeup of brown and orange leaves on an evergreen perennial plant

Some perennials will not go dormant but may need to be cleaned up. Plants such as Epimedium, Hellebores and Heuchera retain their leaves throughout the winter. Trim back tattered leaves in the spring to encourage new growth.


Cut back Ornamental Grasses
Landscape with ornamental grasses

You can cut back ornamental grasses as soon as possible if you have left them up over the winter. It’s not necessary to wait until new growth. You can cut grass to a few inches below the surface. When they are ready, they will come up.


Roses: How to Care for them
Hand-held sheers are used to cut a rose bush branch with yellow flowering.

Your climate will determine how you care for your spring roses. Roses grown in warm climates where they never dormant can benefit from a good prune and removal of most leaves to make the rose think it is dormant. Spring care for roses that do not go dormant should start as soon as the leaf buds begin plumping up.


When to prune trees and shrubs
The sheers are used to prune branches of trees with large white buds and flowers.

The buds of most spring-blooming shrubs and trees are set in the fall or summer of last year. If you prune them before they bloom, this would mean that the flowers of next year will be cut off. Pruning your trees according to their needs is important.


Evergreens need to be fertilized and tidied up.
Hand-held shears are used to prune evergreen branches with short needles.

Spring care for most evergreens is minimal, and may only include a little cleaning. Evergreens are growing rapidly in the spring, so it is best to fertilize them during this period. If the soil is rich and healthy, your evergreens should only require feeding every other year. Find a balanced food that is labeled specifically for evergreens.


Start Composting and Weeding
Closeup of food scraps and eggshells added to the blu composting bin

Pro-active weeding in the early spring will help you to combat weeds. It is easier to pull out young weed seeds when the soil is damp. You shouldn’t compost weeds. You’ll regret it.

The majority of the things you clean can be added to your compost pile. Start a new compost pile in the spring, and flip your old one. Get rid of all plant material showing signs of disease, as well as any seed heads or weeds that may become a problem.


Test soil and fertilizer as needed
Checking soil pH with a small green meter placed in a pot with plants

Before you add anything to your soil, it’s important to test it. Check your soil pH to determine how well your soil is balanced. When plants are experiencing their first growth spurt, they will benefit from a spring feeding. You can add compost, manure, or organic slow-release fertilizer to your soil if it is rich and healthy. You can apply synthetic fertilizer as soon as your plants start to show signs of growth.


Divide and Transplant
Plants that have roots exposed and are pulled from the soil to be planted

Divide or move plants in the spring if you wish to do so. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your plants will recover if they are caught early, when the weather is mild and they are eager to grow.


Stake your plants
Peony stakes are placed over a peony plant

One of the most difficult gardening tasks is staking. Procrastination is tempting, but the earlier you stake your plants, the better it will be for them. They may look ugly at first, but you will save yourself a lot of headaches by waiting for your plants to grow into the stakes instead of trying to fit them in later.


Mulch and Edge
Mulch spread on the side of a house with lavender plants using a rake

Mulch is a wonderful addition to your garden. It can conserve water, cool plant roots, nourish the soil and smother weeds. It’s a fact that every garden needs a layer or mulch. Renew your mulch after the soil has warmed up and dried out. Keep mulch away from stems and crowns. If you want to encourage self-seeding, allow them to germinate first before covering the bed.

In the spring, edging is the finishing touch. An edge that is neat and clean makes the garden bed look more polished. This will also prevent grass from creeping into your flower beds. Do not underestimate the power of an edge that is clean.