Six simple steps to a splendid spring garden

Take advantage of our usually mild winter and get a jump start on the upcoming gardening season.

Timing is everything when it comes to gardening. There may not be much snow around here in winter, but on the bright side weather is cool enough to get prep done for a great spring garden!

Waiting too long can put you behind nature’s calendar for frenzied spring growth and the inevitable race to hot weather days (when you really do want to stay inside).

Here are a few simple tips to make your spring and summer garden even more enjoyable:

1. Clean up struggling or diseased plants. Leave the rest in place.

Not every plant will be a success. Sometimes it’s location, or just disease or age. Leave healthy spent plants and plant material to add nutrients back into the soil, reduce erosion and provide habitat for overwintering pollinators. Then put on your “tough gardener” hat and remove plants that aren’t thriving.

2. Remove invasive weeds that may have taken hold over the growing season.

Has your turf grass crept into your garden beds? Do you have little tree sprouts popping up between your plants? Removing baby trees and grass runners now will save you from a lot of digging and regrowth down the road. Many new tree sprouts can be plucked right out of the ground. If resistance is felt, it’s time to get the hand trowel or small shovel and get the whole root to be successful in the removal. Make sure to take out as much of the grass roots and rhizomes as possible. With recent rains, it may even be time to start mowing!

3. Amend your soil for spring.

Winter is an ideal time to fine-tune the water capacity and nutrient content of your soil. The AgriLife Soil Preparation guide is a great resource to help you learn more about what your soil needs. Many people reserve this activity for spring, but our winter is a great time to add soil amendments like manure or compost. When the busy season hits, you’ll have already done the work.

4. Prune perennials with care.

Winter is a good time to trim some of your garden plants, but there are a few to avoid. It’s good to prune freeze-damaged perennials. If possible, leave the damaged vegetation as wildlife shelter and seed meals for overwintering birds. Stalks can also provide protection to new growth from winter weather and deer browse (if you have them). For salvias, cut 2/3 of the plant to foster new growth. Prune grape vines, fruit trees, blackberries, rosemary and oregano. Now is also a great time to prune trees, including red oaks and live oaks. Just remember to always paint the oak cuttings to protect from oak wilt. Avoid pruning most evergreen shrubs.

5. Replenish mulch.

Mulching in winter has all the same benefits as summer mulching: reducing water loss, protecting soil from erosion and inhibiting weeds. An added benefit to a thick layer of mulch in your garden beds is it will help regulate soil temperatures and moisture. As the mulch breaks down it incorporates fresh organic material into your soil. Remember, 2 inches of mulch is ideal. Too much mulch can make it difficult for rainwater to reach plant roots.

spreading shredded mulch

6. Clean and sharpen tools.

It’s challenging to keep up with tool maintenance when gardening is in full swing. The slower pace of winter is a great time to stretch your tools’ lifespan by giving them the care they deserve.

lawnmower blade sharpening

Tackling these tasks now will not only help your spring and summer go more smoothly, but they can also improve your garden’s health over the long term.

Preparations have already begun for SAWS’ Spring Bloom! Join us on March 9 to discover the secrets to a tough-as-Texas landscape!

Picture of Gail Dugelby
Gail Dugelby
Gail Dugelby is a SAWS conservation consultant with deep roots in San Antonio and the Hill Country. She spent her youth climbing trees, playing in the Guadalupe River, and exploring the outdoors. This drives her passion for nature and our diverse environment, especially our most precious natural resource — water. Given the choice, she would be outside all the time.
Dig Deeper

Find expert advice on garden basics, landscape design, watering and year-round maintenance.