Early Spring Planting Ideas

Well it’s just around the corner and if you have a green thumb you are probably itching to get out there!  Here in the Midwest the weather can change every 15 minutes!  So, if you think those plants are ready to be planted, let’s make sure you select the most cold hardy to get you through to warmer weather!

Pansy and Violas are pretty popular in spring and fall, that’s because they can withstand a frost or two.  The great thing about them is they come in so many colors!  They are such fun plants to brighten up a sleepy and tired landscape, either in planting beds or containers.

Prepotted bulbs are another must in your containers!  Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the list goes on!  When planted they may not seem like much at first, but as soon as the days grow a little warmer your patience will be rewarded.  Pops of color will abound.

Annuals you might not have considered:

There are a number of plants we consider cold hardy and are typically used for early spring (you can find more ideas here) but there are a few summer annuals that might just surprise you.  These annuals can take the cool weather as well as the heat, making them a great all season plant(s)!

Petunias, don’t mind the cooler days and nights and keep going through the whole year.  With so many new varieties it’s easy to not fall in love with them, from the spreading Wave petunias to the mini petunia-like Calibrachoa.   Not to mention they come in almost all the colors of the rainbow!  A great multi season plant.

Snapdragons are another summer annual that can take the heat and take the cold!  Dwarf Snapdragons can provide early bloom color while taller varieties will bring later color, a great way to “cover” the faded bulb blooms.  Just make sure to keep feeding your snapdragons to get continued bloom throughout the season!

Alyssum’s have come a long way.  They used to be summer only annuals, but newer varieties are taking the cold as much as the heat!  These sweetly fragrant plants go from frost to summer and to fall with no problem.  A great annual to cascade over your planters.

Perennials in containers.

Perennials are another way to get color and texture into your planters.  There are many spring blooming perennials that can add a twist to your typical bulb and pansy planters.  Columbines and Hellebores are great early bloomers! While Heuchera is a great foliage plant that comes in a variety of colors from greens, purples, to yellows and an added bonus of wispy blooms late in the spring.

Vegetables and Herbs.

And lastly make those containers multi-purpose gardens, for display and for food!  Plant cool weather veggies like lettuce, rhubarb and parsley for a fun mix.

This planter contains some of the early lettuce crops in the center.

Spring to do list…

Now that the days are getting longer, that only means one thing…spring is around the corner!  So let’s take a minute and plan out our spring to do list.

First things first you’ll want to do a thorough clean up of the planting beds and lawn.  This means removing leaf debris, cutting back perennials and removing dead plants.  After the beds are clean this is also a great time to edge the planting beds from the lawn.

Now you can focus on the living plant material.  You’ll want to prune shrubs and ornamentals of any crossing, broken, dead or diseased branches.  Just this small step leads to a healthier more robust plant.  It’s also a great time to divide some perennials.  You’ll know it’s time to divide when a clump has overgrown its space, has diminished flowering, or the clump starts to die out in the middle.  Spring flowering perennials are best divided after they flower, but most other later flowering perennials will be just fine divided in the spring.

As you are surveying your landscape be sure to pull any weeds you see, it’s amazing how fast they pop up so best to keep on top of them.  A final finishing touch to the garden is to add a layer of mulch to the beds.  This will help prevent new weeds from growing and protect your newly divided perennials as they begin to grow.

Next up is the lawn.  Spring is a great time to fix it up.  As it begins to dry up it’s a great time to dethatch the grass, this is the method of using a rake or a dethatching machine to gently remove the layer of dead grass (thatch) that has built up in the lawn.  You’ll want to do this before the lawn really takes off.   Be sure to patch up any areas of bare/dead spots with some grass seed.  The final step is to fertilize your lawn and while you’re at it you can hit those planting beds as well.

The last and final touch to the landscape is to add some fun colorful early annuals. Just a sprinkling of pansies or some forced bulbs in planters can really brighten the landscape!

Wake up!

So as us humans slowly wake up from our semi hibernation, you’ll soon notice that nature is waking up as well. It’s never too early to think about your landscape!

In the coming weeks, as the temperatures rise and the snow melts, we’ll begin to see the first signs of spring. Bulbs will peek up out of the ground, grass will slowly turn from brown to green and the buds on trees and shrubs will begin to swell for soon the leaves will burst out for spring. Rejoice!

spring bulbs

But let’s get ahead of the game and think about our landscape now, even if there is still snow on the ground. Big picture: set a goal for your landscape! Maybe you would like to add a new planting bed, rearrange the perennial garden or update your patio (maybe even create a built in grill!).

Here are some tips for spring maintenance:

  • Now is a great time to do some dormant pruning. Prune trees and shrubs for corrective measures by removing cross branches and dead/diseased parts of the plants. Just wait on those spring blooming plants or you’ll be sacrificing those beautiful spring blooms!
  • Start planning your garden. This is the time to peruse your garden catalogs and make a list of your must get plants!
  • Once the snow is gone it’s time to dig out the garden gloves and get to cleaning up the garden. Remove dead plants, old bedding plants, etc. Clean up leaf debris, cut back perennials. Once you have a clean slate, it’s time to mulch the garden.
  • Get your lawn ready by using a pre-emergent before the weeds take over. Fix the areas affected by winter damage with some soil and seed. Once the grass begins to grow, resume watering.
  • Don’t forget about annuals. You’ll want to prepare your planting beds or containers for them. Feeling inspired you can plant an early spring container to welcome spring! These include forced bulbs and frost friendly annuals. Be sure to wait until your area is frost free to plant summer annuals.

Remember that goal you set, make sure to incorporate that in your “to-do” list.

The work is never done in the landscape, but once spring has sprung and you’ve tackled your to-do list you can start to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Is your goal to big for you tackle yourself?

Contact Van Zelst Inc.  to help you meet that goal!