The Spring Equinox has sprung, so you can be forgiven if you’re already itching to get started on your garden – but hold up!

It’s still a wee bit early to do any planting. Typically, this part of Indiana doesn’t see its last freeze until the middle of April (and it can be as late as the end of May). If you’re too aggressive about your gardening right now, you could actually damage your plants and do more harm than good.

Just the same, with the sun getting warmer by the day and the daylight hours getting longer, there are still a ton of things you can do right now to get your garden ready for spring. In fact, with a little careful planning and execution, you can set your yard up to be the jewel of the neighborhood once summer is in full swing. Here’s where to get started:

Do Your Annual Spring Inspection

You don’t have to wait for the weather to even out to do your annual spring inspection. Indiana winters can be rough on your home and yard alike, so throw on your boots, put on your imaginary inspector’s cap and take a slow, careful stroll around your property. Look for:

  • Damaged trellises and broken flower pots or other yard ornaments that are in disrepair
  • Flower beds that have accumulated leaves, twigs, debris from the road or the occasional plastic wrapper blown off the street
  • Any problems with rot on your wooden decks, broken tiles on your patio or retaining walls that have started to slide
  • Signs that you have any unwanted guests (skunks, moles, voles and groundhogs, in particular, as well as rats and mice) burrowing around your shrubs or trees

Make a list of any problems you see so that you can either tackle them one at a time over the next few weeks or call your landscaper and pest control experts for quotes.

Handle the Hardscaping Issues

Your hardscaping is the foundation for your garden, so handle any issues you find there before you even consider picking up a spade and planting anything. This means:

  • Fix any issues you find with your deck, trellises, benches, fire pit, shed, window boxes and retaining walls.
  • Decide if you need to add any new hardscaping elements, including things like decorative trim around your garden borders, new raised beds for a vegetable Victory Garden or additional yard decor.
  • Get rid of anything broken or damaged, like flower pots that have seen better days or garden globes that have lost their luster.
  • Clean and sterilize any birdbaths, bee baths and bird feeders you have in the yard to get rid of any fungus, insect eggs and stains.

This is also a great time of the year to touch up the trim around your windows or add a new coat of paint to your privacy fence – before the plants start growing and getting in the way.

Start the Early Spring Clean-Up

Wait until the weather starts to level out before you begin this process so that you don’t prematurely disturb the winter resting place of any bees or other beneficial bugs that are hiding in your garden.

As soon as you’re sure the danger of another freeze is passed, however, you can begin cleaning up the flower beds. If you were able to get a good fall cleaning done, you may have little to do, but it never hurts to rake out the twigs, leaves and other organic debris that may have gathered around your plants during the winter.

Once your flowerbeds are cleaned out, you can easily spot any bare spots – and it’s not too early to divide some of your perennials and re-mulch. (In fact, dividing your perennials now is a lot easier than it will be after they start growing in earnest during the summer.)

Prune Your Trees and Shrubs

Grab your gloves and a sharp pair of pruning shears and turn your attention to any trees and shrubs on your property. Since it’s still early, you don’t want to be aggressive about your pruning (since that could throw your plants into shock and damage them). You can, however:

  • Look for branches on your trees and shrubs that have obviously broken during the winter due to wind, snow or ice, and remove them.
  • Trim back any odd branches that are making your evergreen shrubs look misshapen and clip flowering shrubs back into shape if they’re growing out of their spaces.
  • Look for dead wood or trees that seem to have taken on serious damage during the cold, so that you can call an arborist and have them inspected.

This is also a good time to take a good look at your yard from across the street or along the sidewalk. If you see bare spots at a distance, that can help you plan where to add a few new shrubs or trees this coming summer.

Give Your Grass a Little Tender Care

Finally, you probably need to take a good look at the grassy areas in your yard. The odds are high that you have a few bare patches, some weeds and other damage. To quickly get your lawn in shape:

  • Do a deep rake throughout the yard to clear out any hidden organic matter.
  • “Weed and feed” the lawn by hitting it with a combo of fertilizer and weed killer.
  • Overseed the lawn (paying special attention to any bare patches) to encourage healthy new growth.

Gardening is a great way to reconnect with the natural world after a long, cold winter – and it’s also a great way to add curb appeal to your home. While there’s plenty more work ahead before summer hits, following this checklist can help you achieve one of the most glorious yards on the block!

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