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Do These Chores in Spring, Have a Summer Garden with Zing

A little bit of effort in spring will pay off nicely in your yard come summer. You'll have a prettier, more productive and satisfying garden—and have time to enjoy it once the chores are done!

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Small lettuce plants in garden bedArtit Thongchuea/Shutterstock

Plant Cool-Season Crops

Early spring’s cool temperatures are a boon to some crops, such as lettuce, kale, radishes and spinach. Most of these plants can be sown in place once the soil has warmed a bit in spring. Or you can start in seed pots and transplant to the garden later. Enjoy these plants until the heat of summer sets in, then replace them with heat-loving varieties.

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Trimming treessauletas/Shutterstock

Prune Deciduous Trees


Prune deciduous trees in late winter or early spring, before they develop new leaves. You have a better view of the tree’s structure at that time, so you can prune more easily for shape. It’s also easier on the tree because it hasn’t put its energy into producing leaves on a limb that is destined to be removed. Of course, damaged, diseased or dangerous branches can be removed at any time.

This is the best technique for removing a branch.

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Pressure Wash Hardscapingnoomcm/Shutterstock

Pressure Wash Hardscaping


This is also a good time for spring cleaning…of your hardscaping. Pressure wash moss-covered patios, dingy decks, and any other hard structures that could use some freshening up. While concrete, brick and stone are quite durable, wooden structures should be treated with care. Use a pressure washer with a PSI under 1,200 to be safe.

Learn how to safely use a pressure washer.

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Paint or Stain Structures decktorook/Shutterstock

Paint or Stain Structures


Speaking of garden structures, early spring is a good time to freshen them up with a coat of paint, stain or sealer. They’re easier to access while surrounding plants are dormant. This is particularly true with trellises, pergolas or arbors on which you grow annual vines. Decorate them before they’re covered in foliage.

You can build this cedar and copper trellis.

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Rake or Dethatch Lawnphotowind/Shutterstock

Rake or Dethatch Lawn


Early spring is a good time to give your lawn a good, stiff raking to remove accumulated debris. A metal-tine rake works well in most cases, although you might want to get a dethatching rake if you have a particularly thick variety of grass in your garden.

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Aerate LawnTaweesak Sriwannawit/Shutterstock

Aerating


While you’re tuned into your lawn, consider aerating it every few years. This is especially important if you have clay soil or if your lawn gets a lot of foot traffic or play. You can aerate a small patch by hand with a spade fork, but you’ll want to rent a power aerator for areas the size of a living room or larger. Go in with the neighbors and split a day’s rental to save money.

See 11 tips for a lush lawn.

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Start Seeds gardeningSunKids/Shutterstock

Start Seeds


Save money and get a bigger selection of plants by starting some from seed. Biodegradeable peat pots (shown) make it easy. And you can start everything, from flowers to vegetables to herbs, indoors. Then, take them outside after danger of frost has passed and plant them pot and all in the ground. Seed packets will provide an estimate of how long it takes seeds to germinate and when it’s safe to transplant into the garden.

Learn how to start seeds indoors.

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Test Soil gardeningrapeecheevasaro/Shutterstock

Test Soil


With an inexpensive soil test kit, you can determine what kind of garden soil you have (sand, clay, loam), its pH, and any macronutrient deficiencies. Or you can take a bagged sample to your local cooperative extension office and have them test the soil for a nominal fee and provide a more extensive report that includes deficiencies of micronutrients, as well. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you will know whether you need to add fertilizer or amendments to change soil pH.

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Clean and Sharpen ToolsRadovan1/Shutterstock

Clean and Sharpen Tools


Clean garden tools are easier to use and less likely to pass along diseases. Sharp garden tools are more efficient—shovels slice into the soil easier and loppers handle larger-diameter branches. Sharp blades are particularly important with pruning because clean cuts can seal over more quickly. And a sharp lawnmower blade avoids leaving tattered grass blades that make the grass look less attractive.

Learn how to sharpen garden tools.

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terra-cotta potsQuang Ho/Shutterstock

Refresh Your Pots


Empty out old potting mix and add it to your garden or compost pile. Give the pots a good brushing to remove salt deposits. Fill with fresh potting mix and plant with your choice of cool-season flowers such as pansies, violas, dianthus, snapdragons and gerbera daisies. The nice thing about getting some of your pots ready early? You can move them wherever you need a spot of color—like by the front door, so you can enjoy them every day!

Want some more planting advice? See 10 great container garden ideas.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.