If you're eager to put on your gardening gloves and get out in the yard, you don't have to wait for the official arrival of spring. Start with this checklist as soon as weather permits, and you'll save more time later for planting seeds and starter plants and tending to this year's garden.
Get debris out of the way by raking away dead leaves, sticks, and branches and removing rocks that have been heaved to the surface by frost.
To see if your soil needs additional nutrients or minerals, or an adjustment in acidity or alkalinity, send a sample to your local county extension service, or purchase an at-home soil tester from your local garden center or online. An at-home test will give you the tools to interpret some basic levels such as pH and nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. It's a good idea to get a more detailed test of your soil from your county extension service about once every three years.
Remove existing weeds from your garden. The more weeds you eliminate now, the less competition your garden plants will face for sunlight, nutrients and moisture.
Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles easily, you can start preparing your beds. If it sticks together in a clump, it's still too wet to work in, and you're best off waiting another week or two for more winter moisture to evaporate.
If the soil is dry enough to work with, begin preparing beds for flowers and vegetables. Remove any dead plants, then work in composted matter, such as Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Garden Soil, which will provide your soil with rich ingredients as well as continuous-release plant food. If you prefer to mix your own, you can use compost, sphagnum peat moss or other soil amendments.
Cut a clean edge where planting beds meet the lawn. Use a flat-bladed spade or a lawn edger made for this purpose, cutting deeply enough to sever grass roots growing into the bed.
In early spring, you also can apply a pre-emergent weed preventer to tackle new weeds before they appear. Try Miracle-Gro® Garden Weed Preventer around established plants, being careful to apply only around the types of plants listed on the product label.
Begin pruning deciduous trees, or those that lose their leaves annually, while they are still dormant. For an easy and effective way to feed your trees, try Miracle-Gro® Tree & Shrub Fertilizer Spikes, following the installation instructions provided on the package. For fruit trees, which require more training and pruning, you'll want to begin pruning as late in winter as possible, keeping in mind that younger trees are more susceptible to injury than older trees. Prune branches to allow ample light penetration to the trees' fruit.