The Most Common Spring Gardening Mistakes And How to Easily Avoid Them

While you’re home this spring, are you making these common spring gardening mistakes? You’re not alone. Gardeners and plants alike break winter dormancy with the early arrival of spring.

For both, it’s risky business.

While an early spring may give gardeners a welcomed head start, it can result in disappointments – like lost transplants and more permanent consequences including as soil damage. Instead, temper your spring fever by exercising caution early on and avoiding the most common spring gardening mistakes, below.

A man plants a lettuce seedling in a with a trowel to complete a row in the vegetable garden
Planting too early can be a common gardening mistake.

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CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about (creating the transformation).

Raking Out Garden Beds Too Early

A bunch of daffodil greens with buds emerge from the ground and dried leaves
Avoid the temptation to rake out your garden beds too early.

The emergence of bright green shoots from the perennial bed may tempt you to rake away debris and and mulch. But don’t.

As unattractive as it may be, the old mulch provides continued protection through March and April’s fluctuating weather. It’s like pulling a warm blanket off a sleeping baby.

Tender perennials can be nipped by weather if it gets down into the teens and low 20s. Cold March winds also do damage by desiccating (drying out) plants, especially after a winter drought. Both the low temperatures and wind damage will result in leaves that look burned or white around the edges.

While most plants will recover, sometimes the damage stunts the plants growth.

What You Can Do Instead

It’s better that you leave the plants covered or remove mulch gradually as the temperatures rise.

If you must tidy up, spread a thin layer of new mulch or compost over beds. You’ll want to avoid applying too thick a layer, which will smother your perennials.

Also keep a weather watch for unexpected cold snaps. (This is very common in a New England spring.) Then, cover and protect your bare plants with sheets of newspaper weighted by bricks.

Lopping Off the Bloom

Woman cuts the tips off a thick layer of ground cover with scissors
Be cognizant of bloom times and prune accordingly.

It’s true that late winter and early spring are ideal times for pruning trees and shrubs.

That’s because you can see the structure without it being covered with the full compliment of foliage. It’s easier to see winter damage, water shoots, and other branches that need to be pruned.

But pruning now depends on the season in which your beautiful specimen will bloom.

Because lopping off bare branches of spring bloomers is at the expense of this year‘s bloom.

What You Can Do Instead

Rather than lop off the branches too early, rely upon the camera to make a post-bloom plan. Then, wait until shortly after the spring show to make your cuts.

Waiting allows the plant to put forth new growth for next years bloom period without sacrificing this year’s blooms.

Working The Soil Too Early

Early spring is prime time for planting cool season crops, like peas, spinach, and cabbage.

But if the garden soil wasn’t prepared at season’s end now is not the time to do it.

Believe it or not, you can do permanent damage to the soil. That’s exactly what can happen when the soil is rototilled too early and the soil is still moist – the soil texture can be destroyed or become compacted.

What You Can Do Instead

To determine whether the soil is safe to work, take a handful and squeeze it in your hand. If it’s friable, it will crumble after you squeeze it. If it doesn’t crumble, wait to work the soil. If you can’t wait, then start your cool season crops indoors instead. Then, you can transplant them once the soil can be safely worked.

Wasting Time on Garden Tasks Prematurely

White dahlias blooming and ready to bloom in a garden
Some bulbs, like Dahlia’s, don’t take kindly to indoor starting.

March is a great time to start summer flowering bulbs indoors, like Gloxinias and tuberous begonias.

But not all summer bulbs are good candidates.

For instance, dahlias. Usually, dahlias started indoors in March will look awful by May. You’ll have no better results than if you plant them directly in the ground later in the season. Better to wait until mid-May rather than waste your time.

Another time-waster when done too early is starting your lawn care system.

It may be tempting to get started in a January warm spell, but there’s no real advantage.

Fortunately, there’s no harm done by early fertilizing, since fertilizer stays on the surface of the soil until it’s ready to absorb it. But with freezing rain and harsh weather possible in March, you may just end up doing the work all over again in April.

What You Can Do Instead

With warm days filled with the robin’s song during the late winter, you might be more anxious than ever to get out in the garden. So what’s a gardener to do?

Instead, get the supplies and garden gear you need so when the warm summer days do hit, you can spend time in the garden rather than shopping.

10 Things You Can Do in the Early Spring Garden

Tomato seedling with wet leaves in a red container
Early spring is a great time to get your tomato seedlings started.

We know you really want to get out in the garden. So, here are some things you can do very early in the spring garden that make good sense.

  1. Test your soil to determine whether it needs to be enriched with nutrients or adjusted* 
  2. Start tomato, pepper, and egg plant seeds indoors
  3. Fertilize emerging bulbs and fruit trees with a good time-release fertilizer
  4. Fertilize Clematis, Iris, and Peonies with superphosphate
  5. Turn the compost pile to hasten decay
  6. Prune summer flowering fruit trees and hedges damaged by winter
  7. Spray fruit trees with dormant oil to smother hibernating insects and eggs
  8. Paint and repair garden and patio furniture
  9. Clean and repair tools if you’ve not already done so at season’s end
  10. Clean, sharpen, and repair your garden tools and equipment

*Soil testing is often available through your local agricultural college or horticultural organizations

Final Thoughts on Common Spring Gardening Mistakes

Hopefully we’ve saved you some time and anguish by sharing these mistakes we’ve made, along with many other seasoned gardeners. If there’s one thing we can all agree on when it comes to gardening, it’s that spring can’t come soon enough.

If you’d like to get a head start on planning a successful vegetable garden, then continue reading.

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Photo credits: Sheers, Planting lettuce (Canva), Daffodils – MoneyforCoffee, Pansy – congerdesign, Tomato seedling – Kruscha, Dahlias – Capri23auto (Pixabay)

This article is a collaborative post and may contain affiliate links. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see the following Disclosure.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

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