Place winter mulch in the compost to allow the soil to warm up. Leave permanent mulches in place. Clean up the dead stalks from last year’s perennials that were left through fall and winter to provide shelter and seeds for wildlife. Put excess grass clippings in the compost pile. Add manure or compost to fertilize the soil as soon as the soil is workable. After spring thaw, till any areas of green manure into soil to decompose and enrich the earth. Aerate, fertilize and seed the lawn if needed.
Plant bare-root deciduous trees and shrubs early in spring. Red maple, birch, dogwood, beech, poplars, willows, ash, elms, white oak, hemlock and larch are also best planted in spring. Start seeds indoors. Avoid planting too early or they will grow too tall without the necessary stem thickness to support the leaves. Start seedlings about four to six weeks before transplanting them outside. Acclimatize any seedlings started indoors before planting outside. Use temporary “houses” outside to shield them from heavy rain, strong winds or temperature dips until they get used to the weather. Plant cool season plants once the soil is workable. Transplant flowering shrubs before the leaves start to appear. Divide and transplant later-blooming perennials, such as beebalm, black-eyed Susan or bergamot. Start planting any purchased perennials. Prune most trees in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Do not prune while wood is frozen. In most areas of Canada, where winters are cold, spring pruning gives the trees and shrubs the best opportunity to grow and heal over the pruning cuts. Fall or even late summer pruning can cause winter damage. Prune summer-flowering shrubs before growth begins in spring. Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering.
Prune cedar hedges early in the growing season (it is safe to do so) and again, if necessary, by midsummer. Repot container plants before moving them outside. Do this every couple of years, when the roots begin to creep out the bottom or the plant begins to look deficient. For young growing plants, this may be required several times a year. Acclimatize any seedlings started indoors before planting them outside. Gradually increase the time they spend outdoors and place in an area sheltered from heavy rain, strong winds or temperature dips until they get used to the weather.
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