Growing Herbs at HomeApr 10, 2024

10 Spring Gardening Guidelines

It’s time to wake the soil! After a long winter, the fun of planting can begin. The early bird gets the worm (hopefully they’ll leave some for your beds), and with the effort you’ve put in over fall and winter, you can expect bigger and healthier plants come spring and summer!


Spring Cleaning

Do some spring cleaning on your beds by removing dead plant matter and adding compost to them. Pull any nonbeneficial live weeds before they flower and go to seed, thus spreading further. If you have in-ground beds that border a lawn, make a clean border with a flat spade or lawn edger where they meet to remove any roots from growing over into the beds.

Pro Tip

If the plants you pulled haven’t gone to seed, bury them in your garden soil. They’ll add organic biomass to your soil as they break down over time.


Hedge Your Bets

Shape your hedges and shrubs by removing old wood. If the shrub blooms in spring, prune after flowering. Deciduous trees that bloom on new wood can be pruned back to the old wood at this time.

Pro Tip

Remember to disinfect your cutting tools before and after pruning, especially before moving on to another plant.


Compost Brings All the Worms to the Yard

Add a layer of compost on top of the mulch you added back in the fall. The mulch will continue to break down to add nutrients and organic matter. The top layer will prep the soil for spring plantings and replenish lost nutrients from last season. Compost also refills any topsoil lost to erosion, wind, or weather.

Pro Tip

If you make your own compost from yard clean up and food scraps, consider adding the gold standards of worms, Red Wigglers.


Harden Off Seedlings

Young seedlings that were started indoors need to be “hardened off” to slowly acclimate to weather outside of their cozy, warm greenhouse or indoor home. Start 7 to 10 days before you want to plant them outside. Begin with a dappled or shady spot for 1 to 2 hours and after, store them back indoors in their previous spot. The next day, double the time outside in the same shady spot as before, and so on. After a few days, move them to a sunny spot for the same amount of hours as the day before. Then increase by an hour or two and work your way up to all day so as to not shock the plants.

Pro Tip

Wait until temps are above 50°F at night and it is past the frost date to harden off any plants. Don’t put them out on extra windy, chilly, or rainy days.


Mind the Gap

Look around for bare areas that need some new plantings. Take advantage of the regional plant guides from our friends at the Pollinator Partnership to choose any new additions to your beds that are native and attract pollinators. Birds are also pollinators! Find out which native plants attract specific birds on the Audubon’s database.

Pro Tip

Bringing more pollinators to your yard can improve fruit and vegetable production, as well as increase biodiversity and food for wildlife.


Feed Our Friends

If you regularly plant the same crops, like those beloved annual crops of Basil, Chamomile, or Cilantro, resist always putting them in the same spot and in the same bed. Instead, rotate it with other plants each year to increase soil nutrients and organic matter, improve harvests, and disrupt pest lifecycles.

Pro Tip

Spring soil is ready for hardier herbs and vegetables. Plant seeds for Fava Beans, Chard, and Cilantro, and plant starts like Artichoke, Arugula, and Kale.


Keep Out Unwelcome Freeloaders

To keep nonbeneficial weeds at bay throughout the season and cut down on weeding time and effort, add a thick layer of mulch on the beds and paths. In spring, woodchips are great for pathways, perennial flower beds, and shrub borders. For beds, the best options are grass clippings, shredded leaves, or straw.

Pro Tip

Be sure to leave space around the shoot of any plantings so that the mulch isn’t touching the stem. If using grass clippings, make sure they haven’t gone to seed.


Lose the Lawn

Originally made of Chamomile or Thyme, lawns began in England as a sign of wealth. They migrated to grasses kept short by sheep grazing, then cut with scythes, and now by mowers in suburbs far and wide. Embrace imperfection (and give yourself less to maintain) by ditching the lawn. You can revitalize the soil by creating more gardening space, a backyard habitat, or if you prefer a flat open space for kids or pets, groundcovers like Yarrow, Roman Chamomile, and creeping Thyme, are great low maintenance alternatives to lawns.

Pro Tip

For groundcovers, choose one that is appropriate for your level of foot traffic, light and soil requirements, and height preference. Bonus for ones that smell great when walked on.

Let the Fun Begin!

It’s nice to get back outside and in the dirt after long winters. However, learning new hobbies can be overwhelming. Don’t feel the need to do all the items on our seasonal gardening lists. These tips are merely suggestions to help you get started or help you expand your knowledge.

Want to learn more about gardening at home? Check out the Growing Herbs at Home section of our Stay Well blog.

While these are general tips that are helpful in our area and climate, always do your research about the specific plants in your space and what’s recommended for the zone you live in.