Spring Garden Maintenance: 4 Steps + a Checklist!

Spring Garden Maintenance begins with the following:

  • Garden Installation or Clearing of raised beds
  • Plant Cultivation
    • Starting Your Seeds
    • Transplanting
  • Pest Prevention Measures
  • Maintaining Plant & Soil Health
    • Crop Rotation
    • Soil Solarization
    • Soil Amendments

Let’s dive a little deeper into each one of these below:

Spring Garden Installation or Clearing

A common question for folks is, “When do I start preparing for my spring garden?”

The answer is the season before. We typically start implementing spring garden maintenance around January in the midst of winter.

If you haven’t yet done so, clear away the debris from any overgrown garden beds from the fall.

Prune trees and shrubs during the late winter when these perennials are still dormant.

Now is also a good time to install any new garden beds you may have in mind. Here’s one way that we encourage garden installation. By creating a weed-free, “lasagna garden” raised bed in the spring.

Plant Cultivation

Spring Garden Maintenance also includes:

  • Starting many of our beloved warm-weather crops
  • Harvesting our cool-weather crops and
  • Transplanting seedlings into the ground that is starting to warm up in the northern hemisphere.

Learn more about How to Grow Your Plants from Seed and How and When to Transplant Seedlings.

Pest Prevention

One of the best ways to prevent pests from attacking your crop is to try to avoid them in the first place. Here are a few pointers for doing pest prevention as part of a spring garden maintenance plan:

  • Confuse your pests. Plant or intercrop aromatic plants that can mask the scent and colors of the crops certain pests attack. You can also grow plants that pests do not like, as in the case of itchy borage, prickly pear or cinquefoil to ward off deer. In addition, you can rotate your crops so that pests that have overwintered where they had feasted the year before. or peats that remember that a crop was in one place one year, will no longer find their favorite food where they thought it to be.
  • Put a row cover on crops such as kale and other brassicas that are susceptible to pests such as white flies. That way the flies or cabbage moths will not lay their eggs on these plants.
  • Keep your soil well-watered but not soggy, so as not to harbor harmful anaerobic bacteria. You can ensure this by mulching your garden bed with straw.
  • Trellis your crops so that they are kept above ground away from where pests such as slugs are normally found.
  • For root crops and crops low to the ground, make sure that you have the appropriate fencing to guard against burrowing pests such as rodents, rabbits, and groundhogs
  • If you have a hungry bird population, you may want to net your fruiting bushes or trees such as blueberries.
  • Learn more about Encouraging Natural Allies in the Organic Garden.
  • Create fertile and healthy soil so that plants become more resilient to pests and disease. More on this in the next section.

Maintaining Plant & Soil Health

Plant and soil health are crucial parts of spring garden maintenance. And yet, this area is often overlooked. Here are a few parts of a holistic health program you can implement for your crops and soil.

  • Crop Rotation
    • We mentioned this above as a way to confuse pests. However, crop rotation done well also helps regenerate the soil. Learn more about Crop Rotation and Intercropping.
  • Soil Amendments

We recommend using soil amendments that are organic or natural and not synthetically produced because plants cannot normally take in these chemical amendments. Before adding any amendments to your garden, it is important to know what your soil is lacking in terms of nutrients. So a one-time soil test is recommended to get a baseline reading of your soil nutrient-profile.

We are indebted to Amy Stross’s Suburban MicroFarm book which organizes soil amendments into three types:

  • Animal-Based Soil Amendments
  • Mineral-Based Soil Amendments.
  • Plant-based Soil Amendments

Here is a short list of Amendments.

Animal-Based Amendments:

Bat Guano
Blood Meal (lowers pH making it more acidic)
Bone Meal (lowers pH making it more acidic) high in Phosphorous
Eggshells (raises pH, making it more alkaline) high in Calcium
Fish Hydrolysate (good in trace minerals)

Mineral-Based Amendments

(Use these when you get the soil test, and they tell you about the minerals your soil lacks)

  • Epsom Salt or Magnesium Sulfate (leaf-curling and yellow leaves could be an indicator of magnesium deficiency) Amy Stross says it improves seed germination so it might be a good amendment for your seed starts!
    Incorporate the Epsom salts into the soil before planting or use them as a foliar spray
  • Greensand – High in Potassium (but some other easier-to-find things are too!)
  • Lime – to raise pH to make it more alkaline and suitable for growing veggies
  • Rock Dust – high in trace minerals
  • Sulfur – (lack of it is indicated by yellowing leaves too) better way might be manure rather than sulfur (this would only be for blueberries) because it raises acidity in alkaline soils

Plant-Based Amendments

  • Alfalfa Meal – increases pH of acidic soil, look for organic alfalfa as most are sprayed
  • Coffee Grounds – soil tilth, N, P, K, very acidic repelling slugs, snails, and cats
  • Comfrey – all nutrients are drawn up and its leaves are chopped and dropped to promote soil nutrition, You can make comfrey powder by hanging them to dry and then grinding dry comfrey leaves into powder.
    You can make compost tea with only comfrey if you have no worms.
  • Compost – Learn more about composting from our Hot Composting Webinar with Lauren Gassman.
  • Cottonseed Meal – traditionally used (but no longer recommended as the most common is GMO and sprayed)
  • Herbs – fresh or dried
  • Leaf Mold – 2-3-year-old leaves, can help with water retention and soil tilth
  • Mushroom Compost- raises pH, making it more alkaline
  • Peat Moss – some people have this on their property and can easily use it. However, buying it is often expensive and not sustainable. more like a soil conditioner so that it has good tilth
  • Seaweed Fertilizer – trace elements, larger yields, less susceptible to pests and diseases, better termination (con, not really sustainable unless you live by the sea)
  • Soybean Meal – lowers pH, increases N
  • Wood Ash – best applied in the fall, Apples will love them in the fall, raises soil pH, but if you incorporate them into your compost pile it doesn’t affect pH. lots of trace elements like P and K.

Soil Solarization

A common farming practice is to kill weeds and surface-level bugs by covering your soil tightly with a thick white plastic cover.

This plastic is secured by digging a trench around the periphery. More information about Soil Solarization can be found HERE.

Spring Maintenance Checklist

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