Tips for gardening in the spring

Spring is approaching and most of us are looking forward to warmer, sunnier days. Preparing our gardens for spring means that we’ll have an attractive, outdoor space to relax in when the temperatures rise – whether this is a balcony, a terrace or a garden, small or large.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

When should I start to prepare my garden for spring?

Winter is hard on a garden and in spring, having a garden means there are plenty of tasks to do.  

Whilst January is still winter and the days remain long, the garden begins to grow so this is a good time to plan your gardening year. On dry sunny days, check your stakes, ties and supports are still in place and order your seeds and plants.

What should I do to prepare my outside space for spring?

One of the first things you’ll need to do is ‘spruce up your space.’ 

If you have a patio, terrace or decking, make sure it’s clean and clean flower pots, tubs and garden tools to prepare for planting.

If you have a garden, then preparing your soil will give your new plants a head start.  Remove weeds and last year’s left-over annuals and dig in plenty of organic matter – homemade compost is ideal – to improve the soil.

A garden with a wheel barrow
A flowering garden in Godalming, Surrey

What should I be doing in my garden in February?

As February progresses, temperatures begin to rise and this is the time to prune shrubs and climbers such as Wisteria as well as evergreen hedges.  You should also cut back deciduous ornamental grasses, deadhead winter bedding plants such as winter pansies and to cut the old leaves off hellebores.

At the end of the month, prune back the stems of pot-grown fuchsias which have wintered undercover and place them in a warm, well-lit place to encourage new growth.  If you have containers, check whether they need watering – if they’re sheltered, they may have missed out on rainfall.  Check the compost to see if it feels dry – pots should be moist rather than wet.  Add some fresh compost to your containers – if there’s no room, remove the old compost.

Pruning plants in a garden

What should I sow or plant in February?

In February, you can plant summer-flowering bulbs in pots and you can plant hardy perennials such as Japanese anemones and hardy geraniums. 

Most are dormant in February and you won’t be able to see much above the soil but you’ll be getting them off to a good start.  It’s still too cold to sow seeds outside but there are plenty that you can start off inside in February – on a warm, bright windowsill or in a propagator.   Try the following:

  • Cosmos – sow these on top of seed compost in a tray and prick out when large enough to handle. These are lovely border flowers – single flowered varieties like Fizzy Pink attract pollinating insects.
  • Sweet Peas are easy to grow from seed in biodegradable pots which can be planted straight into the soil when the time is right. They should be sowed individually and kept on a sunny windowsill or in a propagator.  These will provide a wonderful scent and attractive colour in summer.
  • Salvias can be grown in borders or containers and provide colour and height in the garden. Sow the seeds under cover, putting a fine layer of compost on top of them and placing them in a light warm spot – making sure the compost stays moist.
Sowing seeds in a garden

What should I be doing in my garden in March?

In March, you’ll need to prepare your seed beds – as soon as you’re able to dig the soil easily, add some manure or compost to the beds to prepare for the growing season ahead. 

If you’ve got climbers in your garden, put the supports in now so the plants can grow up and through them – it’s difficult adding supports later. 

March is the time for pruning to encourage strong new growth – prune roses, early flowering clematis, winter-flowering jasmine and rhododendrons.  Finish cutting back dead foliage from perennials, trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear and continue to deadhead winter pansies to stop them setting seed.  Watch out for slugs – they enjoy new growth.

What should I sow or plant in March?

There are a number of plants such as hardy perennials that you can sow outdoors in containers or directly into the soil in March and summer flowering bulbs can be planted in well-prepared soils.

  • Hardy annuals include sunflowers, poppies, stocks and cornflowers.
  • Sow sweet peas directly into a bed outdoors but check the supports are in place.
  • Plant bare-root roses into the soil.
  • Plant any forced flower bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils which have finished flowering indoors and they will flower in the garden next spring.
  • Plant summer flowering bulbs – gladiolus, lilies and ranunculus into beds, borders and containers.
  • Plant snowdrops ‘in the green’ in the spring and they will flower next winter.
  • Plant border perennials such as agapanthus and alstroemeria for summer colour.

What should I be doing in my garden in April?

By April, Spring should have arrived – although be careful of late frosts.  Flowering trees and spring flowers such as daffodils begin to bloom.  Its time to start sowing outdoors – you can sow sweet peas outdoors this month and, if you haven’t already done so you can plant your summer bulbs. 

Towards the end of April, if the weather is mild, you may be able to prepare and plant your hanging baskets for the summer – using slow-release fertiliser and water-retaining gel.    Start looking after your lawn with fertiliser and begin to mow.  Divide primroses once they’ve finished flowering and lift and divide established border perennials like Hostas to create new healthy plants.  

Seedling plants

Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a slow-release fertiliser – roses will benefit from feeding.  Finish cutting back dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grasses.  Tie in new honeysuckle, clematis and climbing roses to ensure they grow on their supports. 

Deadhead daffodils and tulips as the flowers finish and trim winter heathers.  April is the time to remove any winter bedding and plants that didn’t survive the winter and, by the end of the month, plan what summer bedding plants you’re going to add to your garden – these can be planted in May.

What should I sow or plant in April?

  • Sow Sweet Alyssum indoors in April and plant out in May or June. This lovely plant provides purple or white scented clusters attracting bees and butterflies.
  • Sow Marigolds indoors in April and plant out in May once the weather is warmer.
  • Sow poppies directly into the garden – they are self-seeding and looks beautiful as part of mixed borders or wildflower planting schemes.
  • Plant herbaceous perennials such as Geraniums and Oriental Poppies.
  • Delphiniums and annuals planted out now will give colourful summer displays.
  • Plant out lavender in April and the flowers will bloom from July to September.
  • Perennial scabious can be planted out between April and September.
Grandparents with their grandchild and a dog in a garden

What dog friendly plants can I sow in spring?

It’s important to choose your plants carefully because some contain toxins that can cause your dog to suffer from health issues. 

The following are dog-friendly plants that will liven up your garden without causing problems for your pet.

  • Snapdragons – sow in March and plant in May. These old-fashioned cottage garden plants are attractive for wildlife and safe for dogs.
  • Michaelmas daisies – sow in March/April plant from March to May. These come in white, blue, purple and pink, are dog-friendly and attract bees and butterflies.
  • Sunflowers – sow in March and plant in April - these can take 11-18 weeks to flower so sow some seeds every few weeks from March-May and you’ll have flowers throughout the summer.

Please note: this does not constitute professional veterinary advice and we advise consulting a professional vet for guidance.

Container planting in the spring

If you have a balcony, a terrace or a patio – or even a small garden, you can create beautiful container gardens.  

There are so many plants that can be used to create beautiful spring containers – daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, combined with evergreens and bedding plants.  One of the advantages of container gardening is that it’s easy to take your plants with you if you move home.

When should I plant my spring containers?

With spring containers, just as with planting in your garden, you need to be guided by the weather conditions and what your plants require.  Spring plants grown in containers are more exposed to cold conditions because of the surface area of the pot than plants in the ground.

Top flowers to plant in garden containers in the spring

  • Daffodils– to create an attractive daffodil display, you’ll need to plant the daffodil bulbs in autumn and finish off with smaller bedding plants in spring.
  • Pansies & violas are reliable plants for early annual spring flowers. They are tough and can cope with frosts and cold weather.  Combine them with spring flowering bulbs to create a display that looks good through winter and into spring.
  • Primroses are a favourite for their early spring flowers and provide colour in early spring – and they are low cost, low maintenance and ideal for containers.
  • Lobelia – available in standard or trailing varieties, these are low maintenance, delicate plants with tiny purple, blue or white flowers. The trailing varieties are ideal in hanging baskets.
  • Herbaceous peonies with their big blooms are perfect for a large pot and a cottage garden look. You’ll need to provide them with some support in your container though.
  • Tulips, which come in a massive variety of shades, add colour to a container.
A balcony garden with potted plants

My garden is shady, or I'm planting on a balcony, what can I plant in the spring? 

Most gardens have shady areas where sun-loving plants won’t grow but there are plenty of plants that enjoy shady positions.  When choosing shade-loving plants, you need to understand whether they need light shade – slight shade for most of the day, partial shade – that is they are in sun for some of day or dappled shade where the sun is filtering through.

  • Wood spurge thrives in difficult conditions and is often found beneath trees. The plant spreads by underground runners until eventually the evergreen leaves form a carpet over the ground.  Upright spikes of lime green flowers emerge in spring and last through early summer providing an attractive contract to the dark glossy foliage.  Divide the plants in March or April.
  • Bleeding heart has pink-red, heart-shaped flowers with white tips which hang from arching flower stems in late spring to early summer. It grows well in light, damp shade.  Plant in early spring or late autumn.
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria) is named after its mottled leaves which are said to resemble lungs – but its prettier than its name with funnel-shaped flowers in blue, violet, pink, purple, red or white. It flowers in spring and looks best in mid spring with fresh growth after flowering.  It is an excellent ground cover plant suited to shady borders.  Plant in spring or autumn.
  • Hardy Cyclamen – this hardy perennial has delicate, silver-lined dark green leaves and flowers in shades of white, pink and red flowering from late winter to early spring. It’s ideal for growing in partial shade at the base of small shrubs or trees. To enjoy the spring blooms, plant the dry corm in autumn.



Raised beds with allotment plantings

What should I plant in my allotment in Spring?

For those who don’t have a private garden but are able to rent an allotment, spring is a busy time.  

Some Beechcroft developments feature allotments or growing beds which are prepared for homeowners and on one development, a gardening club has developed with homeowners literally sharing the fruits of their labour.

In February/early March, it’s time to paint fences or sheds and to clean any greenhouse glass.  As long as the ground isn’t frozen, vegetables like broad beans that have been growing from seed indoors or in the greenhouse can be planted out.  Blueberry bushes, autumn fruiting raspberry canes, apple and pear trees need fruiting but stone fruit trees like cherry trees should be pruned later in the spring or summer.   Vegetable beds should be cleared of weeds and ready for planting.

March is the time for planting.   Crops can be started off under glass or in the ground.  In March you can continue to sow indoors for peppers or tomatoes but it is possible to sow in the ground, in seedbeds or under cloches for crops that prefer not to be handled – such as carrots and parsnips.  This is the time to start off globe artichokes and snow peas.

Best crops to plant in allotment in spring:

  • Chantenay carrots – plant in March, sowing directly into the ground as soon as the weather begins to warm up – or use cloches.
  • Purple sprouting broccoli – sow indoors in March and plant out in June.
  • Snow peas (Mange Tout) – sow undercover or directly in the soil with a cloche in March
  • Globe Artichoke – sow undercover in March and plant out in May.
  • Parsnips – sow seed in the soil outdoors in March

In April when the weather gets warmer:

  • Red cabbage – plant in April undercover or in situ if the ground is warm enough.
  • Early turnips – plant in situ in a sunny or partially shady spot when the ground temperatures reach 4 degrees Centigrade.
  • Runner beans
  • Squash family – sow indoors in April to avoid the last frost and plant out in June. If you sow outside, dig a good-sized hole and fill it with compost before planting a seed.
  • Courgettes – sow undercover in April and plant out in June.
  • Red beets – sow outdoors in April but cover with a cloche if the weather is cool.
The terrace of an apartment at Hampton Manor, Godalming
People enjoying drinks in the garden
Outside the front door of a home in Burford
A photo of the gardens in the courtyard at Orford Place, Ham Common

Who does Beechcroft’s garden design – and what are their top tips for gardening in spring?

At Beechcroft the soft landscaping scheme is designed and installed by Alison Page of Envy Garden Design Ltd and both communal and private gardens are maintained by the estate management service – leaving residents to enjoy the gardens without the hard work involved.  Many Beechcroft homeowners enjoy creating colourful container gardens and strolling around the fully-maintained communal gardens, meaning you are able to enjoy your free time without the need to maintain your outside space or mow your lawn. 

We recently asked Alison for her top tips for gardening in the springtime, here's what she had to say:

What are Beechcroft's gardens like in the spring?

“At Beechcroft developments, the gardens are waking up after winter.  The structural shrubs and evergreen shrubs are gradually joined by the emerging herbaceous perennials.  Spring flowering perennials include Helleborus (late winter/early spring flowering variety), Berenia, Tellima, Pulmonaria, Tiarella, Aquilega and the early varieties of Geranium and these flower ahead of the summer varieties.  When selecting summer-flowering perennials we focus on those varieties that flower for longer to ensure colour throughout the season.  We plant spring flowering shrubs including Forsythia, Rives, Vibernum Bodnantense, Vibernum Tinus and Sarcococca (all late winter/early spring flowering) as well as Camellia, Skimmia Kew Green and Amelanchier.  Throughout the year,  evergreen and semi-evergreen grasses present include Luzula, Deschampsia and Carex,” says Alison Page.

Do you have any tips for people still managing their own garden?

“My top tips for spring gardens is to make sure that you know which plants you already have in the garden.  Herbaceous perennials that disappear beneath the ground during the winter may mislead you into thinking that the area is ‘empty’ and that there’s room for more plants – and this may not be the case.  Wait until the weather warms up a little to give existing plants the time to show themselves – so wait until late spring rather than planting in early spring.  The same is true of bulbs.  Be mindful of damaging the soil in spring:  if, after an inclement winter, the ground is wet you may compact the soil unnecessarily and this isn’t a healthy state for the soil.”

Do you have any advice regarding balcony or small-space gardening in the spring? 

“If you’re creating a container garden, remember that all bulbs work well and, once the bulbs have flowered, summer bedding plants can be added so that the planters continue to provide colour throughout the summer months.  Bulbs also work with herbaceous perennials which will ensure the containers remain colourful and interesting throughout the season.”

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