Chances are this year most of us will spend a great deal of time in our gardens, so here's a checklist to ensure you get the best start from the new season.
1. Eliminate those weeds!
Whether you are presented with new weeds or the left-overs from last year, eliminate them while the grounds still soft from winter. They'll come out easier than in the hard, dry summer soil. Remove them ideally before they have a chance to get deep-rooted and especially before they have a chance to go to seed.
2. Get your beds fertilised!
As soon as the ground has thawed, start to apply granular fertiliser around your shrubs, trees and perennials. Ensure that you match the particular product to the type of plant to ensure any particular nutrient needs spelled out by a soil test.
3. Check shrubs and trees for any winter damage
Start to prune off any broken or dead branches. Ensure you snip off the tips of any evergreens that have suffered tip diebacks from the cold winter weather.
4. Start Pruning!
Early Spring is the time to start pruning your shrubs that flower from late June through to Autumn. This includes butterfly bush, abelia, caryopteris, beautyberry, smooth hydrangea, clethra (summersweet), rose-of-sharon, panicle hydrangea, crape myrtle, St Johnsort, vitex and summer-blooming spirea. These all bloom on wood that grows in the current season. There's absolutely no danger of cutting off the flower buds that formed last year. Ensure you wait until right after flowering to prune spring-blooming shrubs, such as azalea, weigela, rhododendron, lilac, viburnum and forsythia.
5. Remove any dead perennial leaves
If you haven't already cut back your frost-killed perennial flowers. Rake up all the dead leaves, this will clear the way for all the new year's growth, which will be pushing up soon. Also, check that no perennials have worked their way out of the soil, due to the freezing and thawing out from winter. Re-plant them, water and then a couple of inches of mulch around them.
6. Perennials, divide and conquer!
Just before the new growth starts, now is the ideal time to dig and divide most of your perennial flowers that are growing beyond where you want them. Replace the divided clumps as soon as possible, and don't forget to water them well. The only exception to this rule is for early-season perennials that have already bloomed – or that are in bud and are going to bloom anytime soon. These are best left divided after blooming or in early Autumn.
7. Rake away any matted leaves
If you have any leaves that have blown under and around the base of your trees, perennials or shrubs can basically be left in place and mulched over, assuming they are only in small quantities. So, no need to remove these. When it comes to matted leaves however, you should rake or blow them off the lawn and out of evergreen groundcover beds so that the plants can take direct sunlight. Ensure you patch any bare spots in your lawn with some grass seed.
8. Problem prevention
Always apply some lawn food on your lawn (particularly if you have had crabgrass in the past) and also some granular weed preventer on your garden beds. A great cue for the former is when the dandelions are blooming and a good cue for the latter is when you see forsythia bushes in full bloom. Ensure you eliminate your weeds in the lawn and prevent new weeds from taking hold.