Spring Garden Preparation

Orange and black spring garden butterfly preparing for summer sitting on cherry blossom

As a keen vegetable gardener there is no more exciting time for me than preparing the garden for the Spring planting season. Usually it’s been a long cold dark winter and plants have been hatched in my tiny mind as to what exactly I will be growing in the coming year.

Of course there is always an abundance of things to do in the Spring time first of all – but that is all part of the anticipation of actually planting or propagating the seedlings when the time is right – but first there are tasks to be done!

Here is a list of 12 basic garden preparation tasks that I recommend be done during the Spring and early Summer months – some of which is extracted from my book on All Season gardening tasks – Where more exciting jobs for all seasons can be found!

A shortlist of 12 Spring Garden tasks

  1. Clean the greenhouse glass or polytunnel covers
  2. Check all electrical equipment heaters etc
  3. Clear out gutters and drainage channels
  4. Repair fences and trellis work
  5. Cover over bare ground with weed fabric
  6. Dig in manure or compost to vegetable beds
  7. Rake out the lawn and remove old winter leaf moult debris
  8. Apply horticultural oil spray to fruit trees
  9. Prune fruit trees and shrubs after last frost
  10. Check and feed Asparagus if you have any
  11. Check, oil, and sharpen all hand tools
  12. Clean out the pots and containers you will be using for seedlings

Here is a more expanded version of the jobs you can do to prepare for the Spring planting season

1: Clean the greenhouse glass whilst access is easy. Clean away any whitener you have used to shade the plants during the hot summer of last year, and remove any old vines etc that are blocking the light.

Clear out any spiders and other critters with a stiff brush, then spray the area with a mixture of peppermint oil and water to keep them away. 15-20 drops peppermint oil to a hand sprayer filled with water will suffice.

Peppermint oil is also very effective against mice, who can be a real pest in the early season especially if you are growing sugarsnap peas – as I have found out to my cost!

Do the same with cold-frames that you may be using, spraying liberally all around the inside of the frame.

broken greenhouse getting ready for the coming season
Hopefully your own greenhouse will not be in as bad a condition as this one!

2: Dig out and check your greenhouse heaters and any other electrical equipment you may be using, to be sure they are fully operational and there is not any broken leads or exposed wiring.

I once almost killed myself when I used an electric drill which I had not noticed had a split in the cable – a truly shocking experience that would have never happened if I had properly checked it beforehand.

It would also have never happened if I had used an RCD (Residual Current Device) to trip the power supply – this is now a legal requirement in many countries.

3: Clear away any drainage ditches and guttering that may have become clogged with falling debris over the winter. Put the old organic material straight into the compost pile.

Pay particular attention to the down-pipes that can easily become clogged with winter rubbish.

4: Fence and trellis repairs are also best done at this time, before the weeds and foliage have time to grow and make access difficult.

5: If you have bare ground that you are not intending using for a few weeks or months, cover it over with black plastic or weed fabric.

This will make it so much easier to manage when the time comes to start planting it out – and save you having to weed it .

6: Start to prepare your garden soil. If your soil has a ph level below 6.2, then it will benefit from the addition of lime to balance it out. Add Dolomite lime (the finest grind) 3-4 weeks before planting out, then cover over with plastic to prevent runoff.

Dig in well rotted manure or compost if your vegetable beds in particular needs a nitrogen boost.

7: Rake out the lawn. Early spring is the time to give the lawn a good raking out to remove any rubbish that has gathered, and to allow air and sunlight to the new growth.

Bare spots can be repaired by adding some grass seed to a bucked of topsoil or potting mix, then scattering over the bald patch.

8: Apply Horticultural oil spray to fruit trees and shrubs just as the buds begin to swell. Do this ten days or so later to control pear leaf blister mite and pear psylla. Apply oil spray to pears just as the buds begin to swell and then again 10 days later to control pear psylla and pear leaf blister mite.

Apply this Dormant oil to fruit trees or shrubs that have a history of aphid, spider mite or scale infestations.

9: Early Spring is generally the last chance to prune the fruit trees before they begin to blossom. Later than this can result in stress to the plant and a subsequent loss of fruit.

pruning blackberry fruit trees with a heavy garden loper to cut away the dead and unwanted woody parts
Spring is the time to cut away the old dead wood and rejuvinate the fruit trees

10: Growing Asparagus? This is one of the earliest crops in the ‘traditional’ vegetable garden. The early spring is the time to clear away any old dead material, and fertilize to encourage the new growth as soon as the shoots appear.

A balanced fertilizer containing equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, is ideal for Asparagus.

11: Check all your hand tools. Sharpen the blades and oil the working parts. If you didn’t have the lawnmower serviced before you put it away do it now – before you need it to work!

12. Clean your Pots & Trays. Spring is the last chance to clean out all these old seedling trays and pots before you actually need them. Any cracked and broken pots & trays should be thrown away (broken clay pots can be used for drainage).

gardening seasons guidebook cover

Use a soapy solution to wash down the pots and scrub with a stiff brush to get away the old dirt and compost that may well be carrying old pests or diseases.

As an added insurance against pest or fungal disease you can rinse them out in a bleach water solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Or use a store bought solution if you are not confident.

Spring may well be here already by the time you read this article – which means that summer harvest time is just around the corner!


Best Selling author of several no-dig gardening books, James has over 40 years of gardening knowledge and experience to share with like-minded gardening enthusiasts.

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