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How To Prepare For Spring – Top Five Early Spring Gardening Tips

Updated on March 5, 2012
My painting, 'Awakening'
My painting, 'Awakening' | Source

As soon as you see the first little ‘noses’ of tulips and hyacinth emerging optimistically from the ground—and while the crocus and daffodils are bursting into bloom—it’s time to take care of the new season’s early spring chores. For most gardeners in the middle portion of the United States, this transitional period, with its cool to cold nights and highly variable daytime temperatures, is a time of great expectations.

If you have a greenhouse, inside grow lights or wide windowsills, you may have already started some seeds for the hardier vegetable and flowering annuals. If your weather has been conducive, with at least a few warm days in a row so far and mostly-thawed ground, you may well have already planted peas—if not, now’s the time, so let’s start with that as we count down my Top Five Early Gardening Tips!

Pea Seedlings in Early Spring


1. Plant peas in an extra dense row; once they germinate, thin and use the unwanted plants, roots and all, in salads. Be sure to provide support for those varieties that need it, so plant them along a fence or drive sturdy stakes into the ground and staple plastic mesh plant netting to them.

Young Dandelion


2. Yank out those hardy annual weeds that germinated during the previous fall or even during the winter along with their perennial cousins. While these plants are young you can often pull them right out the ground, roots and all, even dandelions, onion grass, mustards and thistles will pop right out of the moist soils of early spring. And what could be more satisfying than that? Plus, if you uproot them before they have a chance to set seed, you can eliminate the entire next generation of weeds, as well. Oh, and if there have not been subjected to herbicide or pesticides, those young dandelions are rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and make a great addition to a fresh salad—see my recipe, below!

My Spring Fresh Dandelion Salad


Spring Fresh Dandelion Salad


1 handful any tender lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 handful torn very young dandelion greens

1/4 red onion, chopped

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cucumber, thinly sliced

1 ripe avocado, apple or mango, peeled and sliced (optional)


Pile lettuce on two plates, distributing equally, add remaining vegetables, toss a bit and serve with your favorite vinaigrette.

To serve as a main course, double all quantities and top with stir-fried marinated chicken or tofu. Serve with jasmine rice or cous cous.

You will need sharp pruners & loppers

Make your pruning cuts clean and sharp


3. Prune fruit trees as well as non-spring-flowering shrubs. All fruit trees benefit from heavy pruning just before they break dormancy in the spring, as will overgrown yews and many other evergreen shrubs. In all cases remember the cardinal rules of pruning: First remove dead branches. Then remove any branches that go straight up or back toward the center of the plant. When two branches cross each other, remove the least healthy branch. Make your cuts clean, with sharp loppers, and cut on a diagonal just past a node (where side branches emerge). If you have old yews that have been pruned poorly, into balls or cones, a very heavy pruning now will encourage growth and provide a more natural, informal shape. But do not prune any flowering shrub (azalea, rhododendron, wigelia, hydrangea, etc.) until after it has bloomed.

From Fruitwise, the first video in a terrific series on pruning fruit trees:

What an apple tree in bllom should look like:


A correctly pruned buddlea


4. If you have not as yet cut back ornamental grasses, buddleia and summer and fall blooming (not spring blooming!) clematis, now is the time to do so. While doing so, clear away leaf litter from their bases as well as well away from the spring bulbs now emerging.

5. Pansies and violas are now for sale, and an overflowing pot of these cheerful plants on your doorstep is a great well to welcome the new season. Save money by buying plants in plastic starting trays and potting them yourself into big clay or colorful ceramic pots. While very cold tolerant, bring them inside if nighttime lows reach well below freezing, and remember that they will need water even when the weather is cool, but especially on warmer days. Try to avoid placing them in full sun because they cannot handle hot, dry conditions and will whither quickly if exposed to the full brunt of the rapidly warming weather.

Pansies on my front step saying, "Welcome Spring!"


My painting, 'Sunny'


Very soon, each day will be packed with gardening projects, so it’s a god idea to take advantage of the first warmer days to get a jump start on spring!

(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. The paintings illustrating this as well as my other articles are all my work. Find out more about my work at

Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.

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    • Diane Woodson profile image

      Diane Minton 4 years ago from Evansville, Indiana

      I love flowers, this is great!

    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Thank you all so much for the kind words! Gardening has been a source of great joy in my life and made tough times a lot easier to bear. I think the best therapy in the world is getting down on your knees and getting your hands dirty! Thanks again....

    • ladeda profile image

      ladeda 5 years ago

      What a lovely Hub! I live in an apartment right now, but I can wait until I have a slightly bigger place and room for a garden one day!

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 5 years ago from Northern California

      I enjoyed your article. It reminds me to think of planting a small garden in my patio pottery. Your illustrations are lovely.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What a wonderful hub! Great gardening advice and wonderful pictures. Your art is very beautiful! Voted up and useful! Have a wonderful spring! :)

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Roberta, What a delight this hub is - it has it all!

      Gardening advice and tips, fabulous photos and your wonderful paintings!

      Thank you, voting up and sharing.

      Best wishes Lesley