Spring Landscaping and Gardening Projects

The month of March, as days warm and sunshine brightens, is a great time to commence with home gardening and landscaping projects, so here’s my list of home lawn and garden projects for Springtime.


Lawn and Garden spring pruning and clean-up:

  • Roses

    • Roses should be cutback into green wood far enough to remove brown or black branch tips that died back over winter. Heavy leather gloves will help protect hands from any thorny issues.

    • Fertilize roses, repeating as necessary throughout the growing season, depending on whether the fertilizer is fast or slow release (read the label).

      • Roses are “heavy feeders” so make sure they get enough fertilizer without overdoing it. Some rose specific products are combinations of fertilizer, insecticide and fungicide.

    • Discover what giving roses of different colors means.

  • Pruning trees & shrubs

    • Spring blooming trees and shrubs have their flower buds set, so only remove deadwood. You can use a fingernail to scrape a twig to determine if that part of a branch is still living: If you see green tissue it’s good!

      • Remove deadwood right above buds that are pointing in an outward direction from the center of the plant.

      • Remove crossing branches and watersprouts growing vertically.

      • Maples trimmed before they leaf-out may drip sap, but university research has shown this doesn’t hurt the tree. To prevent dripping, wait for the foliage to appear before trimming.

      • Prune spring blooming plants within 30 days after they bloom, to avoid removing next year’s “spring flower show.”

    • Heavy pruning and severe cutting back of oversize shrubs should be done now, to allow ample time for them to begin regrowth during the spring growing season. An application of fertilizer (video) will also give them a kickstart!

  • Lawn care

    • Lawn areas should have any remaining leaves removed. Patches flattened by snow mold should be briskly raked with a spring tine leaf rake and seeded if necessary (video).

    • Seeding new lawn grasses and trying to control crabgrass at the same time can cause a conflict, so ensure that the crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide doesn’t interfere with desirable grass seed germination and growth. This conflict is one reason Fall is better for lawn seeding.

      • Grass seed needs good “seed to soil contact” to grow the best, and a light cover of clean straw or compost will help keep the seed moist and in place. Lightly moisten newly seeded areas every morning, especially if the weather becomes hot and dry.

    • Crabgrass germinates at the same time blossoms fall from Forsythia, so crabgrass applications need to be applied and watered-in prior to then. Applying pre-emergents too early might make them less effective, especially during a wet spring.

  • Soil tests

    • Take separate soil samples from the lawn and vegetable garden to focus in on their specific needs. I typically remove 4-inch deep soil cores with a soil probe (video) from 15 or more different spots around a home lawn to get a good representation. University soil test results (video) indicate what to apply and when.

    • In lieu of a soil test, most western Pennsylvania lawns we have tested over the years required an application of lime, in order to raise the soil pH into a desirable pH range. It was fairly common to see recommendations of 50 lbs. of agricultural lime (basic calcium carbonate) per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

    • Soil test results may also indicate a deficiency in major plant nutrients.

  • Tilling your vegetable garden

    • Wait to cultivate garden soil until it is dry enough in the spring, so that you don’t damage the soil structure and create hard clumps.

      • Lime and certain garden fertilizers (like phosphorus) don’t move down through the soil profile very fast, so it is best to cultivate, mix or till them in.

      • Adding compost and organic material to your garden soil every year will help give it the “tilth” needed to be rototilled earlier in the spring, than if left as unamended clay soil.

      • Sandy provides spring vegetable garden preparation tips.

  • Transplanting

    • Deciduous trees and shrubs (with leaves) are best transplanted in the spring while they are still dormant (before their leaves emerge), or in the fall once their leaves have dropped and they’ve become dormant. Spring is the preferred season for transplanting the most tree varieties.

    • Evergreen trees and shrubs can be transplanted in spring before new growth emerges (or in early fall after the new growth “hardens-off”).

    • Ornamental grasses should have brown foliage cutback to about 12 to 18 inches above the ground, after which ornamental grass clumps can be divided to transplant elsewhere in the landscape.

    • Perennials in general (like daylilies and hostas) can be divided for transplanting before their new growth emerges.