Late Winter/Early Spring Tasks for your School Pollinator Garden

Are you and your students anxious to turn out your classroom lights, shut the door and head outside to your garden?

Learn about a few key tasks before dashing outside, so that your excitement leads to positive-not detrimental- garden outcomes!

Depending on your location, you may or may not have begun working in your gardens yet. I have received lots of questions about the first garden tasks of the spring. Below is a general list of common tasks completed in late winter/early spring. Since the Monarch Waystation Network supports educators all over the country, the timing of the tasks varies depending on your location, and depending on the given year’s weather patterns. This list was compiled from numerous resources. If you have other tips or tasks that you feel should be added to this list, please email me. I would love to make this a more substantial list, with your input. One last note, is the tasks here are listed in no particular order.

  • Repair structures, such as raised beds, fences, paths, water sources, native bee houses, retaining walls, seating areas, trellises, etc.
  • Clear drainage ditches so spring rains have adequate runoff (consider planting a “rain garden” in the future…more details soon).
  • Sharpen and oil your garden tools.
  • If your soil is too wet or still frozen, wait until it dries out some before walking around on it. This will prevent the soil from becoming compact, which can result in poor drainage and aeration for the rest of season.
  • Have your soil’s ph level tested. Milkweeds and most native plants prefer soils as close to neutral as possible. Most local cooperative extension offices provide soil tests for free or a nominal fee.
  • Prune back dead stalks, stems, bushes, grasses, etc. to remove biomass and allow space for new growth.
  • Be easy with digging and scraping in the soil. Roots begin growing long before new shoots emerge, so you don’t want to damage the roots.
  • Once shoots emerge, add compost around the shoots.
  • If you choose to add fertilizer, now is the time. Most perennials only need to be fertilized in early spring, and no other time of the year. Choose an organic, slow-release fertilizer that is either balanced (10-10-10) or one with a higher Phosphorous level for root growth (5-10-5). If you can't find a good, organic fertilizer with a higher ratio of Phosphorous, you can add a little bone meal or rock phosphate.
  • If you want to divide plants before fertilizing, do so once shoots emerge, but are less than 4 inches high.