Take a look at your ornamental garden beds. Chances are you’ll see leaves, brush, debris, and who-knows-what-else left over from the winter season, plus a few hardy weeds already poking their heads up through the soil. Looks like it’s spring garden prep time!
This step-by-step guide will show you how preparing a garden for springtime will give you low-maintenance ornamental beds that look great throughout the season.
Step 1: Clean up the yard
Think of outdoor cleanup like indoor organizing: Get everything out so you can start with a fresh space. For spring garden prep, that means getting rid of debris, picking up trash, and removing the layers of leaves. Remove or pull back mulch, too, to help soil warm up faster to a plant-friendly temperature.
Bonus tip: No need for perfection when it comes to cleaning up leaves. A few stragglers can be turned into the soil and will soon become nourishing compost.
Step 2: Cut and prune trees and other plants
Cut off broken branches and remove dead limbs. Prune back and deadhead anything that didn’t get cut in the fall, including ornamental grasses and spent flowers. Shape up shaggy shrubs and thin out too-thick plants. Do as much or as little as you like—the whole point of this step in preparing your garden for spring is to create visual appeal and stimulate plant growth. If you have summer-flowering ornamentals that haven’t budded or flowered, go ahead and prune them. Otherwise, wait until after they’re done flowering.
Bonus tip: Native bees love a good hideout, so consider setting your cleared-away limbs and branches in a pile at the edge of your property.
Step 3: Gently till the soil
Winter snow, ice, and wildlife can cause the soil in your ornamental beds to get tamped down. For this step of spring garden prep, take a spade and gently till compacted soil. This gives plant roots some much-needed oxygen and helps ensure decent drainage.
Bonus tip: While you’re working, mix in some compost, premium quality garden soil, or other organic matter to help enrich the soil.
Step 4: Prevent weeds from sprouting
Things are looking better, but there are weeds lurking beneath the newly cleared ground. Stop weeds while they’re still seeds by applying a pre-emergent weed preventer like Roundup® Weed Barrier Granules in early spring. It forms a barrier to stop weeds before they start. Plus, it prevents weeds and grasses for up to 6 months.
Bonus tip: A good rule of thumb for when to apply a pre-emergent weed preventer is to do it before the temperature of the top inch or so of soil is consistently 50ºF or higher.
Step 5: Kill weeds you can see
Weeds are a lot easier to control if you get them early, so tackle them as soon as you see them. To kill existing weeds all the way down to the root, use Roundup® Ready-To-Use Weed & Grass Killer III with Sure Shot® Wand. You’ll see visible results in 3 hours, plus the Sure Shot® Wand extends 2 feet, making spot-on application a cinch.
Bonus tip: Spring weather is unpredictable, so watch for your opportunity treat weeds when wind is calm and it’s not raining.
Step 6: Plant your garden
This part of prepping the garden for spring is optional. If you have new plants going in or need to transplant others, keep reading. Otherwise skip to Step 7.
An important heads-up: You want to give your weed control product time to do its thing, especially if you’re planting anything new. When using Roundup® Ready-To-Use Weed & Grass Killer III with Sure Shot® Wand, wait 1 day before planting ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; wait 3 days before planting herbs, vegetables, and fruits.
Once the wait is over, it’s time to get planting. Before adding new ornamentals to your garden beds, check plant care instructions for when and where to plant. Not sure when to plant? A good rule of thumb is to wait until after the last spring frost unless you know you’ve got cold-hardy varieties.
If beds are filled with any overgrown perennials, spring is a good time to divide and transplant – but only after plants have flowered. Can’t do it now? Fall is just as good as spring as long as you wait until plants are done flowering.
Bonus tip: Leave well-growing, well-blooming perennials alone. Divide only when space is an issue or plants are faring poorly.
Step 7: Edge landscape beds
Give ornamental landscape beds a clean, sharp line this spring. Not only will creating a defined edge make ornamental beds look good, but it may also reduce the need for grass trimming along the border. To help you know where to dig, lay out a garden hose or spray a line of paint as a marker before cutting fresh bed lines.
Bonus tip: Make a 45-degree cut from the current bed line to the new one, creating a good-looking, mini trench that helps contain mulch.
Step 8: Replace (or refresh) mulch
Finish off your spring garden prep by laying down fresh mulch. Mulch helps keep moisture in and weeds out, and is best applied to a depth of about 2 to 3 inches. To help prevent rot, pull mulch a few inches away from ornamental tree trunks.
Bonus tip: No need to be the first in the neighborhood to mulch. Give soil a little time to warm up and dry out. Your ornamentals will thank you.
Your spring garden prep is now complete. It’s time to sit back and enjoy the season—and accept all the accolades the neighbors will be sending your way once they see the results of your hard work!