8 Simple Ways to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring Planting

overhead view of window box planted with seedlings on wooden table with clay pots, red gloves, and potted herbs on wooden deck


Getting the garden ready for spring is something home gardeners look forward to all winter long. The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and it's almost time for a new season to begin.

But there's more to preparing your garden for planting than paging through seed catalogs and daydreaming about juicy homegrown tomatoes. You'll want to take stock of your gear and supplies, make a plan, and get everything ready for a successful growing season.

Here's a step-by-step guide to getting your garden ready for spring.

  • 01 of 08

    Prune Trees and Shrubs

    Person pruning dead growth on a shrub

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    The first step in getting your garden ready for spring begins in mid-to-late winter with pruning. Plan to prune fruit trees six to 12 weeks before your hardiness zone's last frost date, ideally after the coldest temperatures have passed but before buds have formed.

    Some shrubs can also be pruned around this time, as can many types of roses. Use sharp, sterilized shears, loppers, or a saw to cut away any dead or damaged growth, remove crossing branches, and shape the plant. However, spring-blooming shrubs, like azaleas, should be pruned after flowering in the spring to avoid removing flower buds. Likewise, hydrangea pruning depends upon the type of hydrangea growing in your garden. Some hydrangeas bloom on old wood, and pruning too early can mean a summer without flowers. Always check your shrubs' pruning recommendations prior to cutting them back.

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  • 02 of 08

    Check Tools and Equipment

    dirty gardening tools

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    Before the growing season gets into full swing, it's a good idea to inspect the tools and equipment you'll need in the garden.

    • Give tools a wash in mild soap and warm water. Hose down large pieces of equipment, like rakes and shovels.
    • Use a wire brush and damp cloth to clean wooden handles, then treat clean, dry handles with mineral oil to keep them in good condition.
    • Note any tools that need to be repaired or replaced.
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  • 03 of 08

    Inventory Seeds and Supplies

    red box labeled "seed packets herbs vegetables flowers" full of colorful seed packets with bulbs, gardening tools, dirt on wooden surface

    Peter Dazeley/Getty

    It's easy to get excited about buying new seeds as you prepare for the growing season, but it's important to inventory any seeds, bulbs, or other propagation material you may have saved from previous seasons. Many seeds remain viable for years, so you can save money by using the seeds you already own.

    Take the time to organize your stash, take an inventory on paper, and cull any seeds you're not interested in growing this year. You can donate them, share them with friends, or swap them with fellow gardeners.


    Note the date on each packet and discard those that are more than a couple of years old, as germination rates decline the older seeds become.

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  • 04 of 08

    Plan Your Garden

    graph paper notebook on garden soil with pencil, tools, pots, and gloves


    This is the time gardeners look forward to all winter: sitting down with your seed inventory, a stack of seed catalogs, and a notebook to dream up the new season's planting plan. You'll want to take your USDA hardiness zone, your space constraints, sun exposure, and soil type into account, as well as the growth habit and needs of each particular plant.

    One tip is to site tall plants to the north of shorter ones so they won't block the sunlight. It's a good idea to plant spring crops together so you can harvest them and then plant summer veggies in their place.

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  • 05 of 08

    Order Seeds and Plant Starts

    overhead view of a table full of vegetable plant seedlings in small pots

    ©Daniela White Images/Getty

    Once you've made your garden plan, it's time to order seeds. You can buy seeds at local plant shops, nurseries, and garden centers if you prefer to shop in person. An added benefit of sourcing seeds locally is that shops will typically stock varieties that do well in your growing zone.

    You can order from seed companies and even buy plant starts online, although you'll want to wait until the weather is warm enough to have any live plants shipped. Another option is to check out local farmers' markets and farmstands, which may take pre-orders for spring and summer vegetable starts.

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  • 06 of 08

    Clean Up Garden Beds and Planters

    gardening gloves, trowel, and pruners on winter garden bed with fresh shoots growing

    Kristin Mitchell

    As planting time draws near, you'll want to tidy up your garden plots, raised beds, and planters. Remove fallen sticks, leaves, dead vegetation, and other debris. Keep an eye out for old plant tags, broken stakes, missing tools, and trash that may have blown into the garden.

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  • 07 of 08

    Prepare the Soil

    rake on winter garden bed with dark soil, plant debris and clumps of grass

    Catherine McQueen/Getty

    A few weeks before planting time, you'll want to prep garden beds and containers. Rake off any mulch you may have used to cover the soil for winter, like straw or shredded leaves. Pull any early weeds that may have sprung up.

    While tilling or turning over the soil with a fork or shovel was long considered necessary to work in fertilizer, gardening experts now recommend a no-till approach. Instead, add organic compost to the soil surface in raised beds and in-ground beds. Refresh pots and planters with fresh potting mix or top-dress them, spreading a thin layer of compost over the soil.

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  • 08 of 08

    Start Seeds Indoors

    wooden table with seedlings, seed packets, onion sets, seed trays, and houseplant cuttings

    Johner Images/Getty

    Indoor seed starting is one of the best ways to save money when planting your garden. Check seed catalogs and packets for when to start seeds indoors versus direct-sowing them in your garden. Depending on your hardiness zone and the variety, you may need to start seeds in late winter or very early spring—anywhere from six to 12 weeks before your zone's last frost date. Some seeds may need special treatment to germinate well, such as stratification—a cold period—so include the amount of time needed in your planning.

    Check the "days to maturity" number, which will help you figure out when those plants should be ready to harvest based on the date you plant. Also, make sure to add extra time to harden off seedlings before you plant them in the garden.

Now you're ready to get cool-season seeds and seedlings into the ground. Consult your gardening plan as you shop for warm-weather seedlings and consider summer and fall plantings. Keep up with regular maintenance like weeding, mulching, and watering to keep your garden thriving and looking beautiful all year long.