Start off your garden year right by laying the foundation for a great garden.
Wiping Tool
Maintain your tools.

Tending Your Tools -- Clean up and fix up before plants really get growing. Rake and dispose of leaves, pull obvious weeds, spruce up hand tools and power tools.

  • Take the lawn mower in for a tune-up and blade sharpening or do it yourself. Be sure to change the oil and clean or replace the filter. The blade should be sharpened three or four times a year, so a great tip is to keep an extra mower blade so you can always have one on hand while the other is at the shop or lying around your workbench.
  • Be careful working the soil. If it's too wet, it will just dry into hard clumps, ruining the texture of the soil.

Planting -- As long as you can easily work the soil, get planting those bare-root trees and shrubs as well as bare-root roses.

Planting After the Thaw -- You can plant container-grown trees and shrubs now in the Deep South. In the Upper South, wait until at least a month before your region's last average frost date for best success.

  • If you haven't already, fill in bare spots with cool-season annuals (those annuals that thrive when temperatures are seldom lower than 35 and seldom higher than 80 or 85 F), such as pansies and snapdragons.
  • In the upper South, sow cool-season crops, such as peas, lettuces, and spinach. In the Deep South, you'll already have planted these. Keep harvesting to encourage more production. Talk to your local garden center or experiment with planting seedlings versus seed. With very early planting, seed germination can be iffy.
  • In the Deep South, plant pre-chilled spring-blooming bulbs, bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths that have been artificially chilled to replicate a cold winter. In the Upper South, where winters are sufficiently cold, you'll already have planted your spring-blooming bulbs last fall.

Pruning Roses -- Prune deciduous fruit trees and also prune roses. Also spray them with horticultural oil to prevent insect problems later.

Pruning Trees and Shrubs -- Prune trees and prune shrubs. Be careful with flowering trees and shrubs -- you don't want to trim off developing buds! And don't trim off frost damage yet until all danger of frost is passed. With oaks and walnuts in the South, prune only between December 1 - February 1 or July 1 - October 1 to prevent wilt disease.

  • Prune evergreens now if you like. You can prune them anytime this spring until May or so.
  • Deadhead camellia blossoms and pick up fallen blossoms to prevent disease problems.

Start Seeds Indoors -- Start seeds indoors, if you like, for warm-season annuals, such as tomatoes, marigolds, peppers, cosmos, zucchini, impatiens, salvia, basil, and others. Otherwise, wait until all chance of freezing temperatures has passed -- if they haven't already -- and buy established seedlings at the garden center to plant outdoors then.

  • Keep up with what weeding and watering you can do now. Well-watered plants now will mean better-performing plants later when the rains cease.

Lawn Fertilizer Calculator -- Fertilize cool-season lawns, that is, lawns planted with ryegrass, bluegrass, and fescue. Try our handy lawn fertilizer calculator so you know exactly how much to buy and apply. You can also fertilize your lawn organically by spreading 1/4- to 1/2-inch compost on the lawn or using one of the organic lawn fertilizers now available at some more progressive garden centers.

  • If necessary, dethatch warm-season lawns once they have started to grow.

Garden Journal -- If you haven't already, start a garden journal or file. Tuck into it names of plants you like, magazine pictures, plant labels and seeds, and anything else that suits your fancy. If you're feeling crafty, make your own journal.

Garden Planning and Landscaping -- While you're doing your garden planning, check out the entire section on garden planning and landscaping at It covers everything from assessing your landscape needs to putting it down on paper to choosing the best plants for you.

Garden Plans -- For specific ideas and layout plans, go to's Garden Plans. There are a number of great combinations for everything from shade to property lines to front entries.


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