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Spring Garden Prep: 10 Essential Tasks (Plus a Free Checklist)

I can’t help but count down the days until winter’s end. There’s something magical about slipping back into my gardening gloves and stepping out into the garden, my little slice of heaven. It’s where I feel right at home, where every leaf and flower feels like a part of my extended family. 

Getting the garden ready for spring doesn’t feel like a bunch of chores to me; it’s actually something I enjoy after the slow pace of winter. I dive into tasks like prepping the soil and sorting out my garden shed with a heart full of excitement and hands eager to get dirty. This spring garden checklist, these 10 essential steps, they’re my way of making sure my garden wakes up on the right side of the bed, ready to burst into a season of color and life. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get into it, turning our gardens into the vibrant, joyful spaces we dream about all winter long.

10 Tasks to get your garden ready for spring

Embarking on the journey to rejuvenate your spring garden involves a series of deliberate and thoughtful tasks designed to awaken and prepare your outdoor sanctuary for the season of growth. Here are my top 10 garden tasks that are essential to nurturing your spring garden back to vibrant life:

1. Revitalizing the Soil for Spring

The first step in spring garden care is revitalizing the soil, the very foundation of your garden’s health. Begin with a thorough soil test to unveil its needs, ensuring you provide exactly what your spring garden needs to flourish. I use my county’s cooperative extension center for soil testing. These county extension offices offer soil testing services, which are usually free or low-cost. Check to see if your county offers this service. The Big Blog of Gardening has a complete list of testing sites by state here. 

Amending your garden soil with rich compost not only enriches it with essential nutrients but also enhances its structure, promoting robust plant growth. As a steadfast advocate for permaculture and regenerative gardening, my approach to welcoming spring in my garden is grounded in harmony with nature. For me, preparing the soil isn’t about turning it over or disturbing its layers; it’s about nurturing it gently, ensuring it remains a thriving ecosystem for all its inhabitants.

composting how to

2. Strategic Spring Garden Planning and Design

Late winter is when I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about garden design and whatever improvements I want to make come springtime. I pour over seed catalogs and plan what I want to add. Every year I try to include at least one project to improve upon existing design.  Last year I added a rain water harvesting system and this year I plant to add some drip irrigation and better deer protection around my orchard trees. 

Crafting a blueprint for your spring garden is not just about aesthetics; it’s about creating a sustainable environment for your plants to thrive. Plan for plants that are well-suited to your region’s climate to ensure your spring garden is resilient and bountiful. Thoughtful layout considerations, such as maximizing sun exposure and efficient space utilization, play a crucial role. Introducing crop rotation, especially in vegetable gardens, can bolster soil health and minimize pest invasions, securing a thriving spring garden.

gardening in the winter

3. Pruning and Cleanup

As winter fades, early spring pruning becomes essential in grooming your garden for new growth. Pruning not only shapes your plants but also invigorates them, encouraging healthier, more vigorous growth.  

When I prune, it’s always with a purpose—to remove dead or diseased wood, to improve air circulation, or to encourage productive growth. I use clean, sharp tools to make precise cuts, always considering the plant’s natural form and health. 

Instead of seeing fallen leaves and twigs as waste, I view them as valuable resources. Light layers of leaves can be left in place to decompose naturally, enriching the soil. Larger pieces might be added to the hugelkultur, compost pile or used as mulch, contributing to the garden’s cycle of regeneration. 

Rather than disposing of all garden waste, I create habitat piles in discreet corners of the garden. These piles offer shelter for beneficial insects and small wildlife, turning what might be seen as debris into an asset for biodiversity. 

My approach to clean up is gentle and mindful, preserving soil structure and the microhabitats it supports. I avoid compacting the soil with heavy equipment and use hand tools wherever possible, keeping the garden’s delicate balance in mind.  Often, I find that what might initially seem like a cleanup task is actually an opportunity to observe and learn. A patch of garden that seems overgrown might be a thriving micro-ecosystem, providing food and shelter for a variety of creatures. Learn how my homestead became a certified wildlife habitat here: How to Turn Your Yard Into an Amazing Certified Wildlife Habitat and Botanical Sanctuary

prune an apple tree

4. Starting Seeds and Planting Bare Root Trees

With the frosty threats of winter behind, it’s time to introduce frost-tolerant plants (like sweet peas and radishes) to your spring garden, giving it an early start. For other varieties, kick-start their growth indoors, readying them for transplantation when the warmer whispers of spring firmly take hold. The right planting strategy ensures a seamless transition into a season full of life and color. 

Now is the time to start seeds indoors and plant bare root fruit trees to get a jump on your spring garden.  It is also a great way to save money, as we all know, plants are expensive!  I also use this time to propagate plants through taking cuttings.  I have done this successfully many times with elderberry and other plants. 

5. Natural Pest and Weed Management

In my spring garden, I aim for a balanced approach, managing pests, diseases, and weeds with natural solutions and frequent checks. This keeps my garden thriving and welcoming. By adopting organic practices, I enhance the garden’s resilience and encourage a cycle of growth.

As spring nears, I get proactive with natural pest and weed control, starting with a thorough clean-up to remove last season’s debris and any lurking weeds. This not only tidies up but also prevents pests from settling in. Adding homemade compost to the soil is crucial for me; it nourishes the plants and enriches the soil, promoting a healthy ecosystem that naturally deters pests.

I plan out companion planting, a favorite strategy of mine, where I use plants like marigolds and herbs to protect and enhance my vegetables.

Mulching is another key practice, helping to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and support beneficial insects. For the few weeds that do appear, I prefer manual removal or a natural vinegar solution, even though it’s more work. But that’s the essence of gardening for me—nurturing and collaborating with nature. These early efforts prepare my garden for a vibrant spring, filled with the joy of sustainable gardening.

gardening as a therapy

6. Organizing Your Garden Shed 

My garden shed is the command center for all spring garden preparations and I must admit that more often than not, I leave it a mess in late fall when I’m exhausted from preserving the harvest and putting the garden to bed. 

Come spring, I am newly invigorated after winter’s slow pace.  Now is when I organized this space. I (or my husband, as shown below) remove everything from the shed and organize it so that every tool and material has its place. This streamlines your gardening tasks, making each effort more efficient and enjoyable. This is the perfect time to assess, clean, and organize your arsenal, ensuring everything is in prime condition for the tasks ahead.

garden prep for winter - cleaning the garden shed

7. Preparing Garden Tools

The tools of the trade deserve their share of springtime attention. Well-maintained tools not only make garden work more effective but also protect your plants from damage and disease. A little time spent cleaning, sharpening, and oiling your garden tools can make a significant difference in your spring garden care routine.

spring garden - watering can, red rubber boots, and basket full of gardening tools

8. Mulching and Fertilizing

Mulching is a spring garden’s best friend, offering a multitude of benefits from moisture conservation to weed suppression. Combined with judicious fertilizing, these practices ensure your spring garden’s soil is rich, moist, and nourishing, providing the perfect bedrock for plant growth. I use a variety of mulches and try to be as frugal about it as possible.  Here I am using pine straw mulch because I have a lot of pine trees on my homestead.  It’s a free sustainable resource. Learn more about the benefits of pine straw mulch here: Pine Straw Mulch in Permaculture Gardens: An Essential Guide

pine straw mulch

9. Setting Up Efficient Watering Systems

As the heart of your spring garden, a reliable watering system ensures your plants receive the hydration they need to thrive. Whether it’s through a rainwater collection system like the rain barrel system below, sophisticated drip irrigation, or simple hose setups, efficient water delivery is key to a vibrant spring garden.

The barrel below is gathering water from my studio roof.  I use this for watering all of my potted plants throughout the whole growing season. Learn how to easily set up a rain barrel collection system, along with the laws and regulations for doing so here: 

rainwater collection system

10. Maintaining Structures and Paths in Your Spring Garden

Finally, installing support structures like trellises and stakes early on accommodates the natural growth of climbing plants, integrating them seamlessly into your spring garden’s design. Maintaining and updating garden paths not only adds to the aesthetic appeal but also ensures easy, non-intrusive access to all corners of your garden.

By meticulously attending to these tasks, your spring garden will not only emerge from its winter dormancy but will also be poised for a season of lush growth and abundant harvests, embodying the renewal and vitality that spring symbolizes.

new path leading to the meadow
Spring garden - a new path leading to the meadow.

As we conclude our journey through the 10 key steps to prepare your garden for spring, it’s evident that each action, from enriching the soil to adopting natural pest control, transcends mere chores. They’re intimate exchanges with your garden’s vibrant ecosystem. Embracing permaculture and regenerative methods is more than seasonal prep; it’s a pledge to a lasting, eco-conscious bond with the earth, celebrating its natural ebb and flow.

This spring, as you integrate these practices, remember you’re nurturing more than just plants; you’re fostering a thriving ecosystem. Every decision, from planting a variety of species to eco-friendly pest and weed management, enriches your garden’s health, resilience, and connection to the broader environment. Cheers to a spring of flourishing growth, both in your garden and in your role as an earth’s caretaker.

Print Out the Free Checklist

I’ve created a downloadable spring garden checklist for you, detailing the 10 essential tasks to get your garden ready for spring. You can download it from the link below:

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