If your green thumb starts itching on these sunny, snowless March days, resist the urge to get out and start working in the yard. Your yard isn’t as ready for spring as you are.
The soil is still very wet. And there’s still a chance for a hard, killing frost. Wait for temperatures to moderate before beginning your spring planting. There’s a reason why we consider Memorial Day to be the start of our growing season. We can have hard frosts well into the month of May.
Once the ground firms up and you don’t leave footprints in the lawn, it’s safe to go out and begin your spring clean-up. But you should wait to begin planting. Even though the plants you select may be hardy in our zone, a hard frost while they are young and tender can kill them.
I’m not suggesting that a Memorial Day start is cast in concrete but wait until it “feels” right to work in your planting beds. Let the lawn be one of your gardening barometers. If the grass needs mowing and the mower doesn’t leave tracks in the turf, then it is probably OK to begin working in the beds. The soil is another barometer. Take some in your hand and squeeze it. If little or no water comes out of the soil then it’s OK to work. If a lot of water runs out, it’s still too wet.
Spring bulbs will provide you with early spring color, provided you planted them last fall. Spring flowering trees and shrubs will also brighten your landscape. You should wait until bulbs and woody plants are finished blooming before planting annuals. Annuals will be most susceptible to any late season frost, and our unpredictable winter may just bid us farewell with a late frost, or even a storm.
You can use this time to get a head start on your spring clean-up so you’ll be ready to work the soil when the soil is ready to be worked. As you are cleaning, make a mental note of what needs updating or renovating in your landscape. Commit it to paper when you go back inside. You can also use this time to set up your patio or deck. Furniture and statuary can be placed. However, taking out your temperature-sensitive plants could do them irreparable harm.
Although our growing season is relatively short, there will be plenty of days to work the soil. It may not seem like it, the season is actually more than half the year.