The only reliable thing about the British weather is its unreliability. But although the time when spring will be finally unsprung is a changeable feat, you can plan good spring garden to prepare for the season of seeds, spring cleaning, and maybe even some sunshine with these spring gardening tips.
1. Clean and replace wooden fencing
The winter’s no time to be standing outside with a bucket of cold liquid and a brush. As the weather picks up but before climbers start to clamber up your woodwork it’s a great time to add treating and repairing wooden fences (and other garden structures) to your garden maintenance schedule. Check your fences are secure and strong, with screws or nails safely driven home, and any damage repaired or replaced. Winter storm damage should be replaced now too, with half panels to fill gaps, and fence repair spurs helping rotting posts.
2. Scrub your decking
The winter wind and wet can take a toll of all of your outdoor woodwork. Algae and moss can be more than unsightly, it can be downright dangerous after a shower or if you’re unsteady on your feet. Chemical products, high-pressure water or good old-fashioned elbow grease will see off slippery growths on decking. While you’re at it, make sure all your decking surfaces are safe to walk on in bare feet – summer’s coming remember – so tighten screws, sand off splinters, fill voids, and do a full structural check with safety-conscious repairs in mind.
3. Rake your lawn
To get your lawn ready to thrive this summer you’ll need to remove dead growth and weeds, see the foundations are in good order, and give it a good medium into which it can grow. That means raking or scarifying to clear our “thatch” of old growth that can accumulate. Deal with compacted soil by pricking the ground with a fork or aerator. Finally, for a really professional finish, top dress your lawn with a layer of sand and compost.
4. Show your mower some love
Your spring lawn maintenance lays the groundwork for growth, and soon you’ll want to unleash your mower to keep things in check. Before you do give it a good clean. Be safe – never work on plugged-in electrical equipment – as you clean and oil mechanical moving parts, and sharpen your blades. Remember to go easy on your lawn by setting your machine a little higher for that first cut of the season.
5. Sharpen your tools
While you have a file or sharpener handy take a look at the rest of your tool shed. Spades, hoes, and forks will all do a better job – that’s easier on your poor back – with sharp blades or prongs. Starting the new season with sparkling metal work, oiled wooden handles and tightened screws won’t just give you a psychological boost it’ll make your tools last longer and save you cash.
6. Protect young seedlings
Planting is the exciting part of spring, but to plant into cold or wet ground is to risk wasting expensive seeds, bulbs, and tubers. Germination rates are better in warm soil for most plants. If you’re in a hurry and the sun isn’t yet doing its job then fleece or plastic sheets, cloches, or even straw can raise the temperature ready to plant.
7. Tidy your greenhouse
Of course, a greenhouse is the perfect way to start off tender plants, but spare it a bit of attention before you put it into action. Transfer any occupants to alternative shelter while you brush out the ground level, disinfect the structures, and give glass or plastic windows and doors a good clean inside and out. Repeat this gardening spring clean-up routine on all your glazing such as cloches and cold frames to produce better results with very little effort.
8. Treat your garden chairs right
You’ve probably had your best garden furniture in a shed, attic or outhouse over the winter. It’s time to get it out and into action again, but before you invite the neighbours over for drinks give it a good clean. Brush off cobwebs and loose dirt before giving everything a good wipe down and patching any damaged fabrics or cushions. A home-made solution of water, vinegar, and washing up liquid is a good-value and relatively low-impact alternative to expensive specialist cleaners, and some wood treatment will help your furniture stay pretty and functional for longer.
9. Build a wildlife sanctuary
If you want your garden to do its bit as a valuable ecosystem then spring is the time to get in gear. Now is the best time to dig a wildlife pond, which is probably the most consequential thing you can do to support your friendly neighbourhood creatures. Continue to feed birds – and leave some bugs and caterpillars for them – in cold snaps, and ensure any nesting boxes or sites are ready to host visitors. Most hibernators should be awake, but you might still find stragglers (hedgehogs, frogs and toads particularly) at the bottom of compost, leaf mould or rubbish heaps, so be cautious with blades, sharp prongs and fire.
10. Make a seed list
It’s time to finish any mail or online orders for plants and seeds, and a lot of seeds will be already in the ground and germinating. While you’re spring cleaning the shed, garage and greenhouse you’re likely to come across any number of old, half-finished seed packets. Take the time to give them a look to see if you could be planting them instead of buying new seeds. Sow-before dates are a good guide but they aren’t an exact science and you can test germinate out-of-date seeds on damp kitchen paper to see if there’s life in them. While you’re going over your seeds try shifting them to a fridge in sealed plastic boxes to see them safely through to next year.
Spring is the most exciting time of the year for most gardeners. It’s the time when things get started, and it’s also the time to make big changes. If you’ve got garden design projects in your dreams or structures you’d love to see, now is the time – as the garden switches from slow-mo to all go – to get into action before the growing season really kicks in.