Your house isn't the only thing that needs spring cleaning. Instead of a mop and bucket, take a rake and pruning shears outdoors. Pick up debris. Rake dead leaves from flower beds, and remove them from trees and shrubs. Use a long-reach grabber for hard-to-get-to spots. (Look for one in a hospital supply store; not the local nursery.)
If you didn't cut back your perennials in the fall, do so now. But unlike autumn, when clippings can act as a layer of compost, spring's mantra is chop, but don't drop. "Take away all cuttings," says Shelburne, Vt.-based garden coach Charlie Nardozzi. "You don't want new growth contaminated by any pests or disease that may have over-wintered in the garden."
Adds Melinda Myers, author, horticulturist and host of the TV show Great Lakes Gardener in Milwaukee: "As you move around, drag one of those plastic saucer sleds behind you to collect clippings and cuttings. Then it's easy to drag to your brush pile or to the street, if you have pick-up."
Weed 'em and reap
Weeding is every gardener's dread, but getting a jump on the chore as weeds come up will save time and energy in the summer. Myers suggests taking your morning coffee into the garden and pulling weeds for 5 to 10 minutes. "Weeds are easy to see in the spring, and it's not so daunting a task if you do a little at a time," she says.
Plan first; shop later
Before you open your wallet, stroll around your yard, notebook in hand, to see which areas are sunny or shady. This walkabout will keep you from buying plants or seeds that won't grow under your garden's conditions — no matter your fantasy. "There is no sense in spending money on plants that need full sun for most of the day if the trees around your property cast shade on the garden," says Myers.
Next: Pruning and planting. >>