10 Things to Do in the Garden While Waiting for Spring

Updated on April 25, 2019
Juli Seyfried profile image

Spring is like magic. Juli loves the magical feeling from warmer air to bright flowers and sweet scents!


Impatient for spring to start? Gardeners can’t wait to see what comes out of the ground. What will bloom and when? Will leaves bud or is this plant dead? Seasoned gardeners know that patience is a gardener's friend but fret and worry anyway. What to do? Keep busy and watch the garden show unfold. Many surprises to look forward to!

Hands-On Gardening

  • Clean up. Cut back dried flowers left standing for birds during winter. The plant material that you collect can be the first additions to the compost pile. Plants like crocus bloom in the sunlight. Uncover them by removing dead leaves. They're easier to see when they're not hidden!
  • Prune plants with caution. Steer clear of trimming anything that blooms in spring or even early summer. When in doubt, don’t cut. Spring-blooming bushes only produce flowers that one time. If you don't remember when the bush blooms, take a cutting with leaves on it to a garden center and see if they can identify it for you. They'll have growing info on it too.

Somebody's uncle once cut the grass with the lawn mower and took out the daffodils.

"Hey! " somebody's aunt cried out from the kitchen window. "You just cut down my daffodils! I've been waiting since last spring to see them again."

"They'll grow back," the uncle calmly yelled over the loud lawn mower.

"Yeah - next year!" cried the aunt.

Waiting to prune may make some bushes and plants look out of control but what a way to celebrate spring. A little overreach is OK. Look for all the pollinators who come to the bushes' flowers. Native bees, small moths and wasps are in action.

Prune spring flowering bushes after they're finished flowering. And don't worry if something in your yard looks dead. Its turn to sprout leaves and flowers may come later in the season.

  • Trim back the plants that can be cut now. The whole plant can be trimmed back. A tape measure or yardstick and pruning shears are tools you'll need. Here are a few plants to trim and how low to cut:

Cut back to 18” high – Easy-care roses, butterfly bush, russian sage.

Cut back to 6” high - Artemisia, ornamental grasses.

  • Look for plants with shallow roots that have popped up above ground. The plant looks as if it's been pulled out of the dirt. Heuchera, for example, may have roots pushed out of the ground by ice and snow. Gently push the roots back into the soil with hands or feet. The ground is usually wet or damp enough to do this easily.
  • Rake or pick up debris. Fallen branches, leaves and other plant debris carried by heavy rain or melting snow may be scattered around the yard. Put in the compost pile or use as ready-made mulch on flower beds.

Weeds: Heal all (purple flower) and Dandelion leaves with blades of grass coming up."We don't let a little snow stop us."
Weeds: Heal all (purple flower) and Dandelion leaves with blades of grass coming up."We don't let a little snow stop us."
  • Pull weeds. Plants in your area that grow and flourish all year in abundance and choke out the plants you would like to have in your garden are easy to remove from wet ground. Wear gloves. Take a large bag with you to put them in. There are more weeds than you think.
  • Sharpen tools. If you didn’t sharpen them in the fall or during winter, now is the time. Start sharpening blades for lawn mowers. You may choose to go to a local repair shop for maintenance. Remember everyone has the same idea as you when the weather gets warm and the grass is tall. Many are surprised at how long they have to wait for the return of their lawn mower.
  • Feed lawn. To lower weeds which generally like poor soil conditions, spread compost or organic food to increase nutrients for the grass.
  • Pot up some cool temperature flowers like pansies and violas. Fertilize, water and place outside where you can see them. Average temperatures for pansies range from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to a low of 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Experiment a little and see how much cold and heat they tolerate in your area.
  • Bring some spring flowers inside. Cut from your own garden. Place Forsythia branches, pussy willow branches, tulips, daffodils, hellebores and hyacinth in a vase. Buy cut flowers or potted flowers from the store. Potted flowers like daffodil bulbs can be planted outside when the weather gets warmer. You will see their flowers next spring.

Forsythia already attracts insects.
Forsythia already attracts insects.

Plus Two More...

Plant seeds indoors. Make sure they have all day light on a window sill or are under fluorescent lights. Use a seed starting kit or make your own indoor seed starting kit. Buy soil less potting mix. Place soil in clean leftover containers like egg cartons or take-out plastic dishes. Just make sure they're narrow enough for the windowsill. Follow directions on seed packets for how to plant. Water a little when the top soil seems dry. Seed packets tell you when to plant and then transplant to your garden outside. You can transplant outdoors to a cold box or cold frame or wait until the weather is warm enough per your seed packet instructions.

Order mulch or bedding plants from groups or organizations fund raising for their membership activities. They'll appreciate your support.

Hellebore flowers are early bloomers.
Hellebore flowers are early bloomers.


Read info on plants. What do you want to add to your garden? Magazines, books and online are all good sources of information for growing plants in your area. Many have detailed descriptions of where and how to grow the plants you want. Some may not be suited for your climate, but often you will find a substitute that looks and works well in your area.

Design a new garden space. Maybe you have a part of the yard that would look great with a change. If a large space seems too much to handle, check out containers. They are small and easy to manage. Planning a trio of plants in the thriller(tall), filler (medium height) and spiller(hanging over the pot's edge) design can be a lot of fun.

Figure out how to fix a garden problem. Every garden has too much of something and not enough of something else. Think too much water/not enough water. Low spots/high spots. Too shady/too sunny. What changes can you make to solve the problem? The solutions could be simple or may become a big project. There's a lot of satisfaction in finding a way to make the yard and garden work for you.

Orange Tulips
Orange Tulips

See What Others Are Doing

Visit local parks, zoos and botanical gardens. They create colorful displays inside and out. Many feature native plants for your area. Look for wildflowers on a hike. Look for classes and workshops offered by botanical gardens and garden stores during late winter and early spring.

See what's new at garden stores. New plants are for sale and are often sold in time with their blooming season. You see how the plant looks in bloom. Often they are ahead of the season with plants that will bloom and thrive in the next month.

Find best times to visit gardens. You'll be surprised at how many local gardens including home garden tours are open to the public. Start researching now and plan a vacation around an out of town garden tour.

Try new ideas in your garden. After visiting gardens or taking a class, try out an idea in your own garden.

Late winter weather can lull you into thinking you have plenty of time to get everything done. Check the calendar! There's really little time before the serious gardening season begins. Keep it simple. Pick a few things to do. When warm weather finally arrives gardening and other spring events will keep you busy. Take time to enjoy them all!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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