Spring is the most important time to be in the garden. After a winter cooped up inside, all that energy is ready to be used in preparing our garden beds. Spring is the best time to clean out, make repairs, do the maintenance, pruning and moving to start the growing season started off right. Here are the essential spring gardening tasks you can get started on as soon as the frost begins to thaw.

1. Complete a garden audit 

When the sun comes out, it’s time to inspect the beds. Put on your favorite gardening hat, grab a notepad and go see what happened over the winter. Look for damage on the plants, beds that need to be cleaned out, and any hardscaping that need repaired. This may include trellises that shifted, bowed fences, or rotted benches. You also want to look for evidence of any animal problems like chipmunk droppings, skunk burrows, rodent damage, or any moles, voles, or groundhogs.

2. Focus on hardscaping first

In early spring, the ground is still frozen and too hard to do much with. So instead, use this time to repair or build your hardscaping elements like fences, walls, stones, decks, and concrete. This is a great time to clean out the gutters, and prepare window boxes and raised beds for their upcoming debut.

3. Plan for painting 

Once the sun is out on a regular basis, you can start adding a fresh coat of paint, stain or sealant to any hardscaping elements made of wood. Be sure you check the weather before you pull out your paintbrush to ensure that you’ll have enough sunny and dry weather to complete the project.

4. Clean-up Time

As soon as you see your spring bulbs start to pup up, it’s time to clean the plant debris out of your garden beds. Over the winter, leaves, branches, and perennial foliage often clogs the garden beds. Cleaning them out in the spring prevents pests and diseases and gives your new plants a thriving environment. This is also a good time to clean out any water features, pond, or fountains.

5. Test and Feed the Soil

If you haven’t tested your soil in a while, spring is a good time to do it. Over time, the composition of your soil can change. Experts recommend testing your garden soil every 3-5 years. This allows you to see what nutrients or organic materials it needs and which it has too much of. This may alter the type of fertilizer or additives you use throughout the growing season. Instructions on how to collect and submit your soil sample is available on your state’s Extension Service website.  Once you know what your garden soil needs, top the soil with an inch or two of compost and then, based on your test results, talk with someone at your local garden center about which specific products to use.

6. Pruning

If you haven’t pruned your plants, shrubs and trees yet this year, spring is the time. Pruning is necessary for the health of the plants. Done right, pruning encourages the plants to grow and keeps them healthy and growing all season long. Be sure to research what plants need pruning in the spring and which ones are best left alone.

7. Planting

Once the soil is soft enough to work with, there are some plants that enjoy an early planting. Just be prepared to cover if there is frost in the forecast. Early flowers include: snapdragons, lilac, pansies, and tulips. For vegetables, you can plant peas, lettuce, arugula, cabbage, and spinach early as well.