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gardening in spring spade handle cherry blossom

The first day of spring is tomorrow. For gardeners, it’s like Christmas in March. So, what do you actually do in the garden on a day like today? Here are some places to start.

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Technically, March 20 is the first day of spring. Depending on where you live, it may be spring-like or not. The days are lengthening and warming up, but I know I can still expect a spring snowstorm or two.

In other locales, the winter thaw is over, and plants are taking up water. You can see it in the way their color changes, as though they are waking up and stretching to prepare for a long growing season.

The Spring Equinox is on a Sunday this year. Make a plan to spend the day in the garden. What a perfect way to start the season!

Clean-up

Your yard is begging to be raked. Dead, matted leaves and grass are blocking vital air movement into the soil. Your lawn and plants will suffocate if you leave it. A wide metal-tined leaf rake will scrape away that layer and help aerate the soil. Put the debris in the compost pile. Don’t have one? Start one!

Cut back dead flower stalks, and pull last year’s annuals out of the garden. Now is a good time to divide your perennials, too. For the least amount of root damage, use a flat-tined pitchfork to separate large clumps.

smiling woman spring gardening collecting leaves

Check arbors, trellises, and fences to make sure they are sturdy. Winter takes a toll on hardscaping!

If you are a new gardener or have recently moved to a new home, you probably don’t know what’s in the yard. You can’t go wrong with raking, though! If you see new growth on bulbs or perennials, leave them be until you can be sure what they are. Do cut back dead growth above ground. Sharp bypass clippers are the best.

The point of raking and cutting back is to clear off last year’s artwork, and leave a clean canvas for a fresh new masterpiece.

Planning

If you did not spend the winter planning your garden season, do it today. Ask yourself what you want. Pull out your favorite gardening books and apps. New gardeners can find oodles of information online, but I highly recommend Mother Earth News and Rodale’s Organic Life. Save yourself from getting swamped with confusing info. Go straight to the experienced!

Do you want more edibles in your yard this year? Plant them between your flowers and shrubs. Fruit trees can substitute for shade trees in an edible landscape.

raised garden bed kit

Browse for raised container gardens and planters.

If water conservation is on your mind, nix the lawn, and plant native plants instead. You will also be providing food for native bees and other pollinators.

Design

Bold colors are a trend this year. Fill containers with brightly colored annuals to liven up your deck, patio, or entryway. You can choose styles to either match your home’s design or give it an eclectic look. A variety of sizes and the portability of containers give you a lot of flexibility.

Do you need outbuildings? Maybe you’ve outgrown your shed. Or maybe you’d like a gazebo or vine-covered pergola with comfy seating as an outdoor sanctuary.

Now is also the time to plan new walkways and fencing, too.

PVC fence

Browse for fencing.

Clean and plan on this one day

This is an inspiring time of year in the garden! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with dreams of projects large and small. Keep it manageable, so you don’t cloud the joy of gardening. It’s not meant to be stressful! The garden is a place to relax and unplug.

The Spring Equinox is just one day, a Sunday, and you probably have the day off. Make the most of it out in the yard. The clean up will expose the bare gardens and give your mind space to wander and dream. You will have to come out of dreamland, though, to write down those great ideas to implement during the season.

So take this one day to clean, plan, and percolate some fresh gardening ideas.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.