Wake your garden from winter’s sleep.

Buds swell and blossom, red breasts of robin. A sniffle, a sneeze hoping the tomatoes can stand the late freeze. Fresh, frenzy, bulbs in bloom; no other time of year could ever come too soon. Rain drops on the tulip tops, birth, birds, handle with care. Earth awaking, and sitting in that old wooden chair. Time to work, time to till, no more standing still. Childhood memories of birds in trees, and an unwelcome bee’s sting. Wake up! Wake Up! For this is spring!

At times it may seem difficult to brave the winds, rain and cold that accompany our Southern Idaho springs. Have faith; later in the year you will forget about muddy hands and wet feet. You’ll be rewarded by beautiful blossoms, succulent fruit and a bounty of vegetables to share with loved ones. Your garden will not forget the selfless acts of love that you gave in early spring.

If spring were to be summed up in one word, it would be “busy.” Not only is nature busy pushing through to another season, but also the gardener who cares for her has a lot to do. Here are the Top 10 Must-Dos to ready your garden for an enjoyable year.

Photo by Lisa Thornberg / IstockPhoto.com1. Know Your Soil. Most important this time of year is to understand your soil. Applying the correct soil amendments and fertilizers will reward you all year long with vibrant plant colors, greener lawns and great-tasting fruit and vegetables. A professional soil test will help determine what you need. Don’t be oversold on too much fertilizer or simply the wrong type for the wrong applications. Iron deficiency is a common problem in Southern Idaho, one that is often difficult to correct due in part to our high pH and excess amounts of free lime. Understanding how to work with these challenges will prove beneficial to the beauty of your yard and the quality of the garden.

Photo by Ian Hubball / IstockPhoto.com2. H2O. If the winter and spring have been dry, this is a great time to give all the landscape beds a much-needed watering. When the plants begin to grow, they will need a good source of readily available water and nutrients to begin their growing season.

Photo by Steve Snyder / IstockPhoto.com3. Just a Trim. Get all your pruning and trimming completed before the buds on the plants and trees begin to swell. Plants are quick to recover in spring and can easily be trimmed down without harmful effect. Avoid pruning shrubs that flower in spring and early summer, as you may be removing flower buds. Lilacs, magnolias, weigelas, and spiraea are just a few of the common plants you will want to avoid.

4. Lawn Games. Lawn aeration and power raking are both popular springtime yard activities. Aerating opens the surface of the lawn to allow air, fertilizer, and water. Power raking removes thatch from your lawn and encourages new root growth. Whether you hire a professional or tackle these tasks yourself, remember to flag your sprinkler and irrigation heads.

5. Pile It Up. Rake fallen leaves left over from fall and either depose of them or add to a compost pile. If you don’t have a compost pile, see your local nursery to learn how to start one for your composting needs.

6. Weeds: Let the Battle Begin. It is always better to get a head start on the most aggressive plants in your garden before they have seeded. Spot-spray or pull weeds in garden beds, pathways, and paved areas. If you plan to use preemergence herbicides, spring is the time to apply them – timing is crucial depending on the type and manufacturer’s recommendations. If applied too late, they often do you no benefit. Once the hot sunshine hits, weeds will be off to the races.

Photo by Vladimir Sazonov  / IstockPhoto.com7. A Bug’s Life. Insects are out and about, feeding and breeding, so be vigilant and smart in dealing with them. Get to know the friends and the enemies that have invaded your land, for not all insects are bad; many are beneficial to your yard and garden. A quick search on the internet will help identify insects. Or, we have great extension agents and nurseries that can aid in identifying, then treating pests organically or traditionally.

8. Mulch. Top dress your mulch in time for the summer heat.  Mulching can help keep moisture in your landscape beds. Remember, if you mulch, you must adequately fertilize your plants to keep them healthy. Generally, Mother Nature uses large amounts of nitrogen to break down this woody material, so adequate amounts must be reapplied every growing season.

9. $$$. Plan and budget for all the plants that you will be growing in the upcoming year.  Taking a Sunday afternoon to design your landscape beds and gardens will be time well spent. Think about the colors and the textures you would like to see and the overall feeling you want to achieve. If you have wanted to try something new for a while now, but haven’t had the time to implement the idea, spring is the best time to illustrate it into your garden. Be bold!

10. Spring Clean. And last but not least, hose off your house, sidewalks, and patios to get ready for your outdoor living furniture and garden décor. Impress your guests – and yourself – by creating an outdoor living space that makes you feel like you are swinging on vines in a tropical jungle, yodeling in the Alps, or running through a prairie of wildflowers. Create your outdoor living areas to best suit you and your family.

“To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch their renewal of life – this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.”
– Charles Dudley Warner