Are you ready to plan your spring garden but not sure where to start? We’ve got your back. With this handy guide full of spring planting tips, you’ll enter the growing season better prepared than ever.
If you’re an experienced gardener, you probably look forward to spring, when the ground thaws and you can start digging (so do we!). But if you’re a novice gardener, the arrival of spring can be daunting. When should you start spring planting? What is the best way to prepare your landscape? What are the best trees and flowers to plant in spring?
We’ll let you in on a secret: planting in the spring is no more difficult than gardening at any other time of year. And with a little help, you’ll be ready to plant a garden that thrives in the spring and cooler months.
How do I prepare my garden for spring?
Depending on the winter hardiness zone you live in, you may only need to make minimal preparations for your garden. For example, if you live in a mild spring (like zones 7 and above), you won’t need to change much.
However, if you live in a colder area (such as zones 5 and below), you should start preparing for spring by making sure your plants survive the winter. You may need to invest in some gardening tools and supplies to keep your plants healthy until spring. Frost blankets can protect your plants and ensure frost doesn’t damage them, and layers of mulch can help insulate the roots of more delicate plants.
If you’re really motivated, you can even use spring to organize your shed or garden tools, evaluate your supplies, and replace anything that’s worn out or no longer working as it should (e.g., invest in a new, sharper pair of pruning shears or replace fertilizer).
And what about potted plants? Bring anything that can’t withstand the cold indoors for the winter, like avocado or lemon trees.
You can also move potted outdoor plants closer to south-facing walls to keep them healthy throughout the spring, as concrete walls often absorb heat during the day and release it at night. If this isn’t possible for plants in the ground or in raised beds, anything in pots and planters can easily be moved to a warmer location.
How do you pick the right spot for a spring garden?
Do you want to create a new garden this spring? The most important step in creating a spring garden is choosing the right spot. You need to find a spot with the right soil and light for your plants to thrive.
For most plants, it’s best to choose a relatively flat site with at least partial sunlight (4 to 8 hours of sunlight per day). The more time plants spend in the sun, the more likely they are to survive.
Planting in a shady area? No problem – there are many plants that can thrive in low light. Just choose trees and plants that do better in the shade.
As for soil, most plants prefer nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. But if you have clay, loam, or sandy soil, there are plenty of options for plants that will do well – there are many that are not particularly picky about soil conditions. When preparing for spring planting, simply decide what you want to grow and where, and prepare the soil for planting as described below.
How do you prepare the soil for spring?
Healthy soil is essential for plant growth and success, especially when you’re planting new trees and plants, and it’s something many beginners overlook when starting their spring garden.
Growing rich soil takes time. So, if you plan to plant in the spring, it’s best to start preparing your soil in early winter. Below is a brief guide on how to prepare your soil for spring:
Before you plant in the spring, remove any weeds in your planting area. Be as thorough as possible when doing this, as some weeds can regenerate from a very small amount of roots left behind.
Simple spading involves using gardening tools to turn the top layer of garden soil and remove debris. Use a shovel or spade to loosen the top layer of soil, break up large clumps and remove stones or other debris before planting.
Composting, a natural process of recycling organic material into fertilizer, has many benefits for your soil and plants, including improved nutrient and water retention.
It is rich in essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and can help loosen clay or loam soils, allowing water, air and roots to spread more easily. It can also help prevent erosion. (And by the way, it’s also good for the environment).
If you compost at home, you can add mature compost to your soil before planting – you can also buy compost at many nurseries and hardware stores. You’ll know your compost is mature when it has a clumpy, uniform texture, no discernible waste, is dark and rich in color and smells earthy rather than acidic.
Once you have prepared your soil, you can begin planting. In colder climates, wait to plant until the soil has thawed after the last frost, so as not to expose delicate seedlings to cold or frost (See our chart below for a spring planting schedule by winter hardiness zone).
When planting seedlings, remember to harden them off (gradually move them outdoors 7 to 14 days before planting) before planting them outdoors to increase their resistance to the elements. If you harden off seedlings outdoors, remember to bring them inside quickly in case of a cold snap or storm!
|Hardiness Zone||Estimated Last Frost|
|Zone 3||May 1 – May 31|
|Zone 4||May 1 – May 31|
|Zone 5||March 30 – April 30|
|Zone 6||March 30 – April 30|
|Zone 7||March 30 – April 30|
|Zone 8||February 22 – March 30|
|Zone 9||January 30 – February 28|
|Zone 10||January 15 – January 30|
Nurture for growth
Once your spring plants are in the ground, care for them carefully to maximize their growth, especially during the first growing season until they are fully established. Water the plants well immediately after planting and then water when the soil is dry. Fertilize according to the care instructions for your specific plant.
What can I plant in early spring?
There are many trees and shrubs that will still thrive if planted in early spring. Most people don’t start planting in the ground until March or April, but there are still options for planting earlier in the year. These options will help you beautify your garden sooner rather than later:
- Shrubs like forsythia, flowering quince, camellias, and viburnum
- Hardy trees like birch, dogwood, willow, and magnolia
- Evergreens like pines, thujas, and spruces
Plants that like warmer temperatures, such as avocados, lemons and other fruits, you can plant in containers and keep them inside during the winter – just move them outside when the weather warms up.
If you want to plant decorative trees and plants, there are plenty of options, even in early spring. One of the most distinctive trees, the weeping willow, thrives in early spring. Since it doesn’t shed its leaves until fall, it shines throughout the spring and summer.
Spring is almost here – make sure you’re prepared!
Even if it’s still cold and snowy where you live, spring is just around the corner. Make sure you’re prepared by taking good care of your plants over the winter, changing garden tools and supplies as needed, choosing the right place to plant your new garden, preparing the soil and planting at the right time for your growing zone.
You can also get a head start on planning your spring garden by ordering popular plants before they sell out – you can even create a wish list to record your favourite plants as you plan your planting.