The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and spring flowers are starting to peak their heads out of the snow. As I sit and have my morning coffee in my sun-room, I look out into my back gardens and start the spring clean-up plan in my head. I find it easiest to break down my spring clean-up into a nice check-list. I have compiled this list for those gardeners, who like me, are antsy to get into their gardens.

You can start getting into your gardens as soon as the ground thaws, and as soon as the soil is dry enough.  In the Niagara region this can happen as early as April or as late as May. When is soil dry enough? You want the soil to crumble when picked up, it should not clump up.


  1. Remove any large wet clumps of leaves by hand. Remove any leaf mulch from the crowns of plants and spring bulbs.
  2. Use a fine metal leaf rake to rake out old mulch and let soil dry.
  3. Cut back dead steams of perennials and ornamental grasses. Remove seed heads from perennials and press back any perennials heaved by frost.
  4. If required, remove any unwanted weeds.
  5. Remove burlap and winter coverings from evergreens and roses.
  6. When the ground thaws, place a thin layer of compost or fertilizer throughout your garden. Replace the mulch you raked out and top off areas that have thinned out over the seasons.
  7. Prune out any dead or diseased wood from shrubs. For many summer flowering shrubs, you can prune back in early spring. We recommend no more than 1/3 of the branch. For more information on pruning you can check out our article here. : The Dirt on Pruning Shrubs

If needed, transplant any shrubs before they leaf out. Now is the time to also split perennials or grasses.

Your garden is now prepped and ready for the season.


Every garden is different, and you may need to do some things that are not on this list. This list is a good starting point, but you may also want to look at your garden and see if there is anything else that can be done. An example of this is my task for the spring; the previous owners of my home LOVED Rose of Sharon, and I mean LOVED it. They let it self seed and grow everywhere. While I appreciate Rose of Sharon, I do not want more growing than what is already there. I will be raking out heavily under the Rose of Sharons, as I do not want seed heads to take root. I will also start to hand pull any that are starting to come up, and also take out a few Rose of Sharon plants to thin out the garden a bit. Don’t worry, I will not let the plants go to waste, as neighbors have already placed dibs on these transplants.

So go on and get out in your gardens this spring.