Decorating & Design

April 23, 2024

6 Ways To Get Your Garden Ready For Spring

Spring looks different depending on where you are. Your region may be cloaked in a curtain of drizzle, but when the sun is shining, it’s hard for gardeners to stay inside and not make inroads long before the May 24 weekend (generally accepted as a frost safe date!). Rosie Daykin (shown in the June 2021 issue of House & Home), lavishes her West Coast beds with care from early spring, growing most of her veggies from seed — and the results speak for themselves. Here are some things you can do now to prep your gardens for the most beautiful, productive summer ever.

1. Start Seeds 

Sometimes Rosie chooses seeds just because she likes their name, for example: Blushed Butter Oak lettuce. Create a spreadsheet of what seeds to start, arranged by date, or organize packets week-by-week in an accordion file or recipe-card box. You can start seeds for veggies like eggplants, peppers and tomatoes indoors six weeks before the last frost date in your area (here is a calculator that will let you know what’s the date for your region). If you are sowing seeds directly outside, plants like peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes can be planted before the frost date, while zucchini and cucumber need to be planted afterwards The seed packet will tell you when to plant based frost dates, soil temperature or plant hardiness zones.

2. Harden Off Seedlings

Seedlings that have been grown in cushy controlled conditions indoors will need time to adapt to the outdoors. Whether growing a vegetable, herb, or flower, seedlings need to be acclimated to the outdoors gradually. Start by putting them outside for an hour, and build it up by an extra hour each next day until they can withstand a full day of sun.

3. Clean Up Beds

Gently remove matted leaves to unearth early spring ornamentals first, like tender emerging spring bulbs. Trim battered leaves from semi-evergreen perennials (which shed their foliage for a very short time in late winter) such as hellebores, heuchera and ornamental grasses. If you have a compost pile, turning it over will help it break down faster.

4. Prune (Judiciously!)

Wait until the risk of frost has passed before starting to cut back plants, because hard frosts penetrate the fresh cuts and can cause damage. To gently shape the shrub, remove dead, diseased, damaged stems, weak branches, and stems going in unwanted directions or crossing other branches.

Summer-flowering shrubs like butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), Russian Sage, hardy fuchsia, spirea, and potentilla, should be trimmed in spring. Prune vines such as wisteria, clematis and climbing roses. Cut raspberries canes that have borne fruit, and any that are thinner than a pencil, and shorten the remaining young canes by at least a foot.

To trim back ornamental grasses like miscanthus, fountain grass, and feather reed grass, gather the stems and foliage in a clump and cut back to around 6-12 inches from the ground. Do this after the risk of frost, but before the new shoots emerge from the base.

Prune shrubs that bloom on old wood (like Hydrangea macrophylla or Big Leaf hydrangea, which have big, ball-shaped mopheads) or lace cap florets after they have finished blooming. Similarly, wait until spring flowering shrubs like lilacs, forsythia, and weigelia have bloomed before pruning or you will remove the flower buds. You can cut back paniculata hydrangeas such as Limelight, climbing hydrangeas and Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ because they bloom on new wood.

5. Divide

Most perennials grow by sending up new stems from their underground parts and form clumps that can  die back in the centre, producing a “doughnut” effect. Perennials that bloom after mid-June are usually divided in early spring (late April or early May), as soon as a couple of inches of growth are showing. Chose a day that is cool and the ground is moist so the roots don’t dry out quickly, and make sure the plant is well watered before you begin.

To divide a clump-forming plant, lift the whole plant by digging up as much of the root ball as possible then shake or tease off the soil from the roots to reveal the roots and crown.

6. Add Some Color 

Craving instant color? Maybe your bulbs are slow to show, so hit the garden centres for pots of pansies or violas for spring planters. You can augment them with flowering branches like forsythia or pussy willow.

Author: Wendy Jacob

Janis Nicolay



House & Home June 2021


Rosie Daykin