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Prepare your garden for spring with an expert-approved checklist

Prepare your garden for spring with an expert-approved checklist

Spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to plan what to grow and how to prepare your garden for the planting season.

Mark Viette, horticulturist and host of In the Garden on Virginia Farm Bureau’s Real Virginia television program, said his first word of advice is “Always wear gloves.” This will help gardeners avoid getting splinters or cuts when working in the dirt.

He also advised never working the soil when it’s too wet, as this will cause it to compact, preventing it from absorbing air and water.

Viette suggested home gardeners use the following checklist to spruce things up for spring:

  • Do a late-winter cleanup by removing dead foliage and fallen leaves from the garden. Throw away anything that’s had insect or disease problems. Other debris can be added to the compost pile for nutrients.

  • Cut back ornamental grasses. They’re great to leave for much of the winter to shelter wildlife but should be pruned to about 3 inches from the ground to encourage new growth. For an easy way to cut ornamental grasses, visit

  • Prune dead or diseased portions of shrubs and evergreens like boxwood or cypress. Remember not to prune healthy growth until it gets warmer.

  • Feed your garden with organic fertilizers. This ideally should be done after the garden cleanup and before mulching.

  • For vegetable gardens, get rid of plant debris such as old tomato vines. If you have fruit trees, throw away old fruit and leaves, as they often have fungi spores that can re-infect the trees.

  • If planning to grow tomatoes in a vegetable garden, now is a good time to add dolomitic limestone and gypsum to the surface of the vegetable garden to help prevent blossom end rot issues.

  • If using compost in your garden, add 1-3 inches of compost, and work it into the ground using a garden fork or tiller.

  • Spray your fruit trees with an all-season horticultural oil spray to help mitigate pest and disease issues. Be sure to follow the label instructions.

  • Depending on your planting zone, February, March and April are a good time to divide and transplant plants like hostas, daylilies, liriope, Solomon’s seal and groundcovers like sedum.

  • Clean out bird houses before spring nesting season begins. Keep your feathered friends comfortable by emptying old debris once a year, checking for mold and mildew and cleaning with a gentle diluted dish soap and warm water solution if needed.