If you haven’t already, spray fruit trees and shrubs, such as roses, with light dormant oil spray. It must be done on a calm day, when there’s no threat of rain for a few hours and BEFORE the tree starts to leaf out. (Such vines as honeysuckle also benefit from a light spraying to prevent bug damage later in the season.)
Winter pruning should be attended to, but not too early. Fruit trees can be done, but wait a little longer for the shrubs. If they are pruned too soon, there is a chance they could suffer severe damage if hit by a hard frost.
Prune grapes and cane fruits, such as raspberries, now.
Do not prune spring flowering shrubs or clematis. All Type ‘A’ clematis, such as the montanas, flower on last year’s wood and should be left alone until they have finished blooming. Type ‘C’ varieties should be pruned back to two strong sets of buds, as close to the ground as possible, sometime now as they flower on this year’s wood. If your clematis falls into the Type ‘B’ category, check whether it is group B1 (Duchess of Edinburgh) or B2 (Nelly Moser), as they are pruned differently again. B1’s flower on last year’s wood in May and then again in September on the current season’s growth. B2’s flower simultaneously on both last year’s and this year’s growth.
Do not walk on or work in the garden bed if the soil is soggy. You will just be compacting it and making it difficult for the new shoots to break through. Take a handful of soil and squeeze. If it crumbles, it is ready to work; if it dribbles water, go back inside and thumb through your seed catalogue or garden magazine again.
Check for bulbs coming up and pull the mulch away slightly.
And while you are down there admiring the fresh new growth of the season, check for slugs. They are starting to make their move already and are famished from their winter quiet time. There are probably a few round white eggs close by too that should be disposed of immediately.
Start to fertilize the tender plants that you brought in last fall; they will be putting on new growth.
Check the bulbs that were brought in to be stored over the winter. Discard any that have gone soft or moldy.
It is too early to start most annuals and vegetables from seed just yet, but perennials can be started as well as geraniums, begonias impatiens, parsley and some others. Sweet peas can be planted straight into the ground where they are to grow, or indoors in flats. Nip them back to the first 2 sets of leaves when they get to be about 4 1/2″ to 6″ tall.
Now is a good time to buy spring flowering shrubs. When planting them out in the garden, do not bury them any deeper than they were in the pot … or even set them a little higher as the soil will settle somewhat. Do not forget to water!
Prune late flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas, Lavatera ‘Barnsely’ and buddleias
Fertilize your houseplants and/or repot them as they will be putting on more growth.
Begonia tubers can be potted up now.
Over wintered geraniums and fuschias can be repotted and given some brighter light.
Garden beds can be top-dressed with seaweed, fish compost, mushroom manure or compost from your bin. Your plants will be ecstatic if you can pile it on about 2″ thick. Do not use fresh manure! You will not only burn your newly emerging plants, but also be inundated with lots of weeds from the undigested grain seed. Best to use horse and cow manure that has been aged for 5 years, though you can cheat a bit on the cow stuff because it passes through so many stomachs. Chicken manure should be 1 or 2 years old. Know your supplier well!
Turn the rest of the compost bin that was not emptied onto the garden to hasten the last bit of decomposition.