Northern & Central Midwest
Wait for Dry Soil
Wait until soil has begun to dry out before walking in the garden or working the soil. Take a handful of soil and squeeze. If the ball holds together, wait a few days. If the clump is easy to break apart, the soil is probably ready. Working when too wet compacts the soil and ruins its structure.
Spray Dormant Oil
Be ready to spray dormant oil on fruit trees, shrubs, and shade trees. Oil should be sprayed when the temperature is at least forty degrees with no chance for rain or frost for twenty-four hours. Oil can help control aphids, scales and mites. Follow label directions carefully.
Test Your Soil
If you need a soil test, wait until the soil temperature is above 50 degrees. Temperatures below this may give you false readings. You can test your own soil with a home test kit or send it to a soils lab for more consistent results. If the pH need adjusting or nutrients are low, the soils lab will make recommendations for amounts of lime and fertilizer to add.
Select Transplants Carefully
When selecting transplants from a garden center, make your choices carefully. Try to avoid plants that already have blossoms on them. Plants need to put out sturdy roots before using energy to push flowers. Ask whether the plants have been hardened off yet so you'll know if you must do this yourself.
Cut Back Grasses
Cut back ornamental grasses as early as you can. Leaving them standing will delay the onset of new growth and will also make the grass look ragged when it does emerge because it's impossible to avoid cutting off the tips of the new growth when you do finally cut the tops back.