April showers are falling, so it’s time to prepare for May flowers! Here’s a handy checklist to get your yard cleaned up and your garden ready for the upcoming season.

The long-awaited warmer weather is a sign that gardening season is upon us! April is a critical month for prepping your yard and garden for spring. Here are a few steps you should consider:

Make a Plan

Having a plan for your garden helps you feel better prepared and encourages greater growing success. Take some time to map out your space, choose your plants, and set goals for the season. Consider factors such as water and sunlight availability, ideal plant pairings, and how much time you can dedicate to upkeep.

Prepare the Soil

Prepare your garden soil for planting by turning it over and adding compost. This enhances the soil’s structure and nutrient content, creating a strong foundation for your plants. To ensure you’re making the right amendments, you can also conduct a soil test to measure the soil’s type, PH, and nutrients. This test can be done at home or by sending a sample to your local county extension office.

Start Seeds Indoors

For tender plants that don’t fare well in the cold, start seeds indoors for warm-season crops (such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) about six weeks before the last expected frost. After the last frost, gradually expose seedlings to outdoor conditions to acclimate them before transplanting.

Plant Edibles

You can start planting cool-season edibles like cilantro, broccoli, onions, strawberries, and asparagus as soon as the soil is fully-thawed and easily-workable. Just be sure to check your local frost dates to avoid unexpected cold snaps.

Prune Trees and Shrubs

Inspect trees and shrubs for winter damage, especially young ones, and remove dead or damaged wood. Prune summer-flowering plants like rose bushes, berry bushes, and apple trees before they start their active growth, but avoid removing any limbs with already formed buds.

Clean Up the Lawn

Once the snow has melted and your lawn is once again visible, it’s time for cleanup. Rake leftover leaves and debris and add seeds to bare patches. You may also add a spring lawn fertilizer to encourage healthy growth. Begin regular mowing, but avoid cutting the grass too short – aim for 2 ½-3 ½ inches in height.

Trim Perennials

Examine perennials and cut back any dead or damaged leaves, buds, or branches. Plants that require additional thinning can be divided and transplanted to a new, less-crowded area. However, you should wait to prune any spring-flowering plants until they have finished blooming.

Get Composting

A compost bin reduces waste and creates soil amendments to add to your garden throughout the season. As you clean up your lawn, add clippings and other natural debris to your pile, making sure to mix it regularly for aeration and to expedite decomposition.

Watch the Weather

The outdoor climate is a bit unpredictable this time of year – especially in the midwest. One day it’s below freezing with snow and then, a few days later, it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Keep an eye on the weather for frost dates and soil temperatures to avoid starting plants that can’t tolerate the cold. You can also cover or bring plants inside as needed.

Care for Your Tools

Well-maintained tools make gardening easier and more efficient. Take time to clean and sharpen your gardening tools and replace anything that may be worn out, such as gloves with holes, shears that won’t cut, and handle-less trowels.

Once planning, clipping, mowing, and other preparations are complete, you’re well on your way to a happy and healthy garden this season. As always, if you need seeds, starter plants, and tools, or if you simply need a little extra advice, stop by the greenhouse. We’re happy to help!

For more spring gardening tips, check out Four Easy Themed Gardens, Top Ten Tips for Gardening on a Budget, and Quick & Easy Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden.

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