The coming of spring is an exciting time. Not only do we get longer days, but the weather becomes more pleasant and all kinds of wildlife emerge. This means that if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you can look forward to spending more time in it.
And spring can be a particularly inspiring time for those with green fingers because it marks the beginning of the gardening season.
Though, gardens can become overgrown and unruly during autumn and winter, so you might be looking at yours and thinking it needs a bit of a clean-up!
To help you get started, we’ve teamed up with Wilko to bring you these seven tips for a springtime garden clean up, as well as some advice on the best time to do it.
Why clean up your garden in spring?
Just like our homes, we like to keep our gardens looking clean and tidy. And through the autumn and winter months, it can be difficult to see our lawns and flower beds become overrun with dead leaves and other debris. Although, it’s best to leave your big garden clean-up for the start of spring.
There are a few reasons for this… Firstly, during the wintertime, the dead material in your garden provides refuge for a whole host of animals – but perhaps most importantly, pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, and other insects that are beneficial for your garden’s ecosystem.
These friendly creepy crawlies are hiding out in a state somewhat like hibernation (diapause); waiting for the days to get longer and the temperatures to get warmer.
By jumping the gun and clearing your garden before then, you risk disturbing these insects before they’re ready to emerge and significantly reducing the number of helpful pollinators and insects that live in your garden.
So, it’s best to wait at least until temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees celsius until you start clearing. Your garden will thank you later!
Plus, doing your big garden clean-up at the start of spring just makes sense from a practical perspective. It means you’ll have a garden that’s ready to go for when temperatures are warmer and the gardening season starts. And you’ll only have to do one big clear-up, rather than continuously raking leaves and pruning shrubs during the cold and wet winter months.
7 ideas for a springtime garden clean-up
1. Remove any dead leaves and other loose plant debris from lawn and flowerbeds
As you might expect, one of the first things to do when getting your garden spring-ready is to deal with the blanket of dead leaves and other loose dead plant debris that’s settled on your lawn and flowerbeds over the past few months.
If you added any mulch to protect some of your more sensitive plants over the winter, then the start of spring is also a good time to remove this (as this can obstruct pollinators and insects from emerging in the spring).
This isn’t only an important task (as all that dead material can harbour disease and destructive fungus spores), but an exciting and satisfying one. Seeing your garden emerge from the autumnal ashes will hopefully get you excited for all of the sunny days ahead.
Once you’ve raked all of this up, it’s important that you dispose of it properly. Some councils offer a home collection service for garden waste, while others provide a special bin and collect it as part of the regular home collection scheme. You can also dispose of garden waste at your local household waste recycling centre.
However, the most efficient and eco-friendly way to deal with garden waste is to put it in a compost bin or heap, so it can break down and provide nutrient-rich food for your garden later on in the year.
2. Cut back old growth from herbaceous perennials and ornamental grass
Over the winter, herbaceous perennials like (lavender and lupin) and ornamental grasses (like pampas grass and blue fescue) die down, only to spring new growth in the warmer months. And some gardeners like to cut these down in autumn before their foliage dies to keep their garden looking neat and tidy.
However, the best thing to do to preserve the ecosystem in your garden is to leave this job until spring. This is because their hollow stalks and stems can provide refuge for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
But if you’d like to get on with this job before the weather warms up, and you want to be as wildlife-friendly as possible, then it’s best to follow one of these two strategies…
The first is to cut any plants down to around eight inches and then spread the stalks loosely in the compost to avoid harming any of the creepy crawlies that may be hiding out inside. And then, when temperatures are warmer, you can go back and cut them down to ground level.
Your second option is to cut down the stalks and stems to ground level, but then bundle them together with a length of twine and place them in a corner of your garden for a few more weeks, allowing the insects inside to emerge at their own pace. Some gardeners even like to hang these bundles from their fences or trees.
For tips and advice on how to cut back herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses, check out this article from the Royal Horticultural Society.
3. Use the opportunity to get rid of any weeds
It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t add weeds to your compost pile or bin, as you’ll risk replanting them when you use the compost as fertilizer.
4. Get pruning trees, shrubs, and flowers
Once most of the heavy-handed work, such as cutting perennials down to ground level and getting rid of weeds, is done, you can move on to some of the more delicate tasks like pruning.
Pruning trees, shrubs, and flowers not only prevents them from becoming unruly and taking over your garden but also helps to keep your plants healthy and improve flowering. Pruning involves removing old flower growth, as well as getting rid of any dead, damaged, or diseased material, like branches.
To make sure you encourage growth and flowering, you need to make sure you prune the right plants at the right time. For instance, it’s unwise to prune spring-blooming plants in the early spring, as you might lop off their buds and deprive your garden of the beautiful flowers to come. So it’s important to identify what plant you’re dealing with, what their needs are, and prune them accordingly.
What you can prune at the beginning of spring, however, are plants that flower after mid-summer – these include many deciduous shrubs like summer lilacs, panicled hydrangea, and Russian sage.
For some pruning tips, why not check out the video below from the RHS…
5. Use the opportunity to hunt for pests in your garden
When you’re doing your big springtime garden clear-up, you’re going to be seeing to every corner of your garden – and this can make it a great time to keep an eye out for any pests that might be being a nuisance.
From slugs and snails to aphids and earwigs, there are plenty of pests to watch out for in the average UK garden, and all can damage your plants in a variety of different ways. For instance, snails and slugs will typically gnaw away at leaves, leaving big holes and ragged edges in them, while aphids will usually suck the sap from your plants causing growth distortion.
So before you set out on your big spring clean, it’s worth familiarising yourself with how to spot common garden pests and the damage they cause. These articles from the RHS and Gardener’s World will give you all the information you need to spot them, as well as strategies to help you get rid of them.
6. Mow your lawn and edge your flower beds
Whether you keep your lawn in immaculate shape all year round or you let it get a little unruly over the winter months, the start of spring is an excellent time to give it a trim. This is not only because it gets your lawn looking smart and ready for the warmer months, but because it makes it a little easier to do another part of your spring cleaning checklist: edging your flower beds.
Like deciding to become a parent or a pet owner, part of signing up to care for a garden is to prepare for a little bit of healthy disobedience. And one particularly rogue aspect of any garden is the lawn because it can slowly creep into your flowerbeds.
Edging your flower beds is effectively making a clear border between your lawn and your flower beds. This won’t just make your space look tidy, but prevent grass from entering your flower beds and disrupting your cultivated plants. You can do this by placing a physical barrier down, like plastic or wooden edging (some people like to use bricks), or you can simply dig the border.
Digging your edges is a relatively straightforward but rewarding task as you’ll be left with sharp lines that are endlessly satisfying to look at. All you need on hand is a shovel, like in this video demonstration, or a specialised tool called an edging iron, like the one featured in this video.
It’s important to take advantage of early springtime to edge your flower beds, as the soil is still moist which makes it much easier. By leaving it for the warmer months when the soil is harder, you might risk giving yourself more work.
7. Clean your garden furniture
Even if you’re not a gardener, spring can be a particularly exciting time for those of you with a garden.
With the days slowly getting longer and the weather becoming warmer, you can look forward to having dinner out in the fresh air, and entertaining friends and family in the sun. But before you can do this, it’s best to give your garden furniture a freshen up, even if they’ve been stored away or covered up.
Garden furniture can be made from all sorts of materials and some are easier to clean than others. For instance, plastic furniture can be cleaned relatively easily with a hose or a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, while wooden furniture may need a little more TCL. Lots of people recommend using a soft brush and a good wood cleaner to get the job done, and then finishing off by applying wood oil to protect your furniture.
For advice on how to clean and maintain whatever type of garden furniture you have, why not take a look at this article from Lazy Susan?
So whether you’re preparing your garden for some serious green-fingered activities or you just want to straighten it up ahead of the longer days and warmer weather, we hope this article has given you some ideas for where to get started.
If you’re in need of some supplies or tools to get any of these tasks done and more, Wilko offers a wide range of gardening and outdoor products at an affordable price that’ll surely help you get the job done.
And for more gardening ideas and inspiration, why not head over to our home and gardening section? Here, you’ll find a tonne of helpful articles like our garden checklists for March and April, as well as plenty of help if you’re looking to get stuck into some green-fingered activities, but don’t have a garden.