It happens every year, but somehow it’s always a wonderful surprise. Longer days, bright sunshine and warm breezes are all signals that spring is on its way!

If you’re like many of us, these telltale signs may inspire you to don your gardening gloves and head outside to the yard.

But take heed: although the first day of spring arrives on Monday, March 20, the risk of frost still looms large. That being said, there are plenty of tasks you can undertake right now to prepare your garden for your most glorious season ever.

Start a Garden Journal

Record what happens in your garden. Keep track of what you plant, the fertilizing schedules and weather patterns. A garden journal is the best place to record the lessons you learn and the “do’s and don’ts” for years to come.

Survey Your Yard

Make a list of the plants you need to replace, divide or move before you start working. Remove dead, damaged and diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Check fences, walkways and steps for winter damage. Clean your bird feeders and birdbaths.

Take a Soil Test

Dig soil samples from different areas of your yard as soon as the ground has thawed. Then, send the samples to a soil testing laboratory to be analyzed.

Successful gardening starts with soil preparation since soil contains the nutrients, water and organisms that help your plants grow. For more on soil testing, consult the University of Maryland Extension’s Home & Gardening Information Center at

Prepare Your Vegetable Garden

Thoroughly clean up dead plant materials and remove weeds by the root. Based on testing results, enrich your soil with organic matter such as compost, leaf mold soil conditioner or well-rotted animal manure.

Put up trellises, pea teepees, pole beans and other climbers.

Spinach, lettuce, peas and parsley are all vegetables that can be planted in the early spring.

Wake Up Your Lawn!

Consult your soil test and note the pH results to determine whether to lime and the amount of fertilizer that is needed. The soil-testing lab provides customized rates for lime and fertilizer application, based on the soil sample you submit.

Note: If you have a lawn service and they recommend that your lawn needs lime, inquire if they have performed a pH test. If the pH is greater than 6.5, save your money because it is not necessary!

Wait to reseed bare spots until April.

For turf guide and seasonal and yearly fertilizer rates, consult University of Maryland Extension’s Home & Gardening Information Center at

Clean Up Perennial and Shrub Borders

Pull back mulch and weeds, and prune back dead plant materials.

Fertilize based on soil test results and add 1-2 inches of organic matter to the soil.

Consider planting some early spring flowers such as pansies, snapdragons and primrose.

Happy gardening!

Rebecca Brown began her career as a horticulturist more than 25 years ago and studied at the New York Botanical Gardens. She has been a University of Maryland Extension Baltimore County master gardener for three years and is a backyard beekeeper.

Norman Cohen is a retired chemist. He has been gardening for 38 years and has been a University of Maryland Extension Baltimore County master gardener for nine years. Cohen also provides gardening education to the public at local farmers markets.

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