Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist & Cleaning Tips

Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist & Cleaning Tips

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There’s not doubt about it… spring can be an overwhelming time for gardeners! So, to make things easier, I’ve put together comprehensive spring garden and yard clean up checklists for you.

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Plus I’ll tell you when and how to spring clean your garden, give you tons of tips, and share a few of my favorite tools that will help you get the job done faster.

Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist & Cleaning Tips


One of the first steps all home gardeners should take in the spring is a good garden clean up.

Beyond just the appearance, there are many benefits; like reducing potential for disease and weeds during the growing months.

Instead of just attacking winter’s mess, first read my guide explaining not only why, but when to start, and how to do a spring garden cleanup properly and productively.

Below you’ll find all that information and more, including a checklist of essential yard chores that will help you tackle cleaning, and set your garden up for success.

Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed guide…

Why Clean Up Your Garden In Spring?

Dead plants, stems, and leaves littering your beds not only look bad, but could be unhealthy. They harbor disease and fungus spores that can end up causing major problems later on in the season.

All of that dead material also hides weeds that can quickly take over if left unattended.

So, it’s always a good idea to do some spring cleaning to help keep your garden disease and weed free, and looking its best.

When To Clean Up The Garden

Wait until the temps are in the 50sF consistently before beginning your spring garden clean up.

Many types of bees and other pollinators hibernate in plant stems and leaves over winter, and won’t emerge until it’s warm enough. You don’t want to accidentally kill them by starting too early.

It’s also best to wait until the ground has thawed and dried out a bit. If you start walking around in your beds while the soil is still wet, it can cause compaction.

This can make it very difficult for plants to grow later on (plus, you might lose a shoe in the muck…not that I would know anything about that).

Related Post: Spring Houseplant Care Checklist

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How To Spring Clean Your Garden & Yard

Just like any task that involves cleaning indoors, outdoor clean up can be a major chore – especially when you have lots of garden beds like I do. But don’t worry, you don’t have to get it all done in one day.

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To make it easy for you, below I’ve broken the list down into smaller tasks that you can do throughout the spring. Take your time and work through the checklists at your own pace.

Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist & Cleaning Tips

Dead plant material that needs to be cleaned up in the garden

Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist

I’ll go into details on each of these items below, but here’s a quick look at the tasks in my spring gardening cleanup checklist…

  • Prune shrubs
  • Remove winter mulch
  • Brush back leaves on top of plants
  • Pull any dead annuals
  • Remove dead growth from perennials
  • Clean up your vegetable beds
  • Pull the weeds
  • Edge your garden beds

Prune shrubs – Early spring is a great time for pruning. It triggers new growth and helps to prevent disease issues. But don’t trim early blooming shrubs just yet.

Wait until after they’re done flowering, or you could wind up cutting off all of the buds by accident. Learn more about when and how to prune plants here.

Remove winter mulch and other protection – Once the temperature starts to warm up, you can remove any winter mulch you may have added over your sensitive plants last fall.

You should also remove burlap wraps, wind screens, plant cones, or any other types of winter protection you added in the fall.

Using a hand rake to clean up debris and leaves around a plant

Brush back thick leaves – A common garden clean up question I get is, “should you remove leaves from flower beds in spring?”.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to remove all of the leaves from your beds; they are actually really good for the soil. Leaves act as a layer of mulch to help keep the weeds down, and also feed the plants as they decompose.

Just be sure to brush back any thick layers of leaves that are sitting on top of your plants. If you want to add mulch, you can just lay it right over top of the leaves.

Pull dead annuals – Annual flowers like petunias, begonias, marigolds, geraniums and snap dragons only live for one year in harsh climates, and won’t grow back after winter.

So, you should pull them out of the ground, roots and all, and toss them into the compost bin. Learn how to tell the difference between annuals and perennials here.

Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist & Cleaning Tips

Removing the thick leaves covering my plants in spring

Remove dead growth from perennials – Prune or pull the dead leaves from perennials like hostas, day lilies, ornamental grasses, coneflowers and sedums.

You don’t need to be too diligent about cleaning flower beds in spring. Just be sure to remove any thick clumps of leaves that are on top of the plants so they won’t slow new growth.

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Take care when trimming around the base of plants during spring garden clean up so you don’t accidentally cut off new growth.

Also, don’t try too hard to pull dead leaves and stems from the ground. If you force it too much, you could end up pulling out new roots or growth in the process. If there’s resistance when you try to pull, then prune it out instead.

Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist & Cleaning Tips

Pruning around new plant growth in early spring

Clean up the vegetable garden – Pull out any dead vegetables that you didn’t get around to removing last fall. Try to remove as much of the plant debris and roots as possible as you clean up your veggie beds.

Also, detangle any dead vines from trellises and growing supports to make them look nicer as new vines take their time growing in.

Pull weeds – Spring is a great time to get a jump on cleaning up and pulling weeds before they have time to become established.

Weeds are easy to see before all the perennial plants start filling in. Plus, since the ground is wet from the snow melt, they’re easier to pull too.

Once you’re done weeding, cover the soil with a thick layer of mulch to help keep new weeds from sprouting.

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Edge garden beds to remove grass – Grass has a way of creeping into your beds, and it easily goes unnoticed through the busy summer months.

Spring is the perfect time to edge your beds to clean up and remove the stray grass. Once you have the debris and weeds cleaned up, the grass is easier to see. It’s also simple to pull out, since the soil is wet.

Edging my garden in spring to clean up grass

Spring Yard Clean Up Checklist

In addition to cleaning the garden, there are a few spring yard clean up tasks you should do too.

Here’s a quick to do list of other yard tasks, with the detailed tips and instructions below…

  • Pick up around the lawn
  • Prune your trees
  • Wash patio furniture
  • Sweep the deck, patio and porch

Lawn clean up – Pick up branches, remove large piles of dead leaves, and clean up any other debris that has accumulated on the grass.

I know it’s tempting to get the lawn rake out as soon as the snow melts. But it’s best to wait to rake the grass until the ground is thawed and dried out a bit, and your lawn starts to come out of dormancy.

Pruning trees – If you need to trim some trees in your yard, usually the best time to do it is when the tree is still dormant.

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But before you start lopping off branches, do a little research on the specific types of trees you have. In general, it’s best to wait to prune fruit or flowering trees until after they are done blooming.

Pruning my trees in early spring

Wash your patio furniture – Whether your patio furniture spent the winter outside or in storage, give it a quick rinse with the hose.

Then wash it with soapy water to remove any caked on scum. You don’t want any unexpected guests sitting on dirty patio furniture.

Sweep off the deck, patio, and porch – It’s crazy how much debris can accumulate on decks, patios, and porches over the winter. So get out the broom and clean up the piles of leaves and other debris in the corners and crevices.

Tools For Spring Cleaning Your Garden

There are a lot of great tools that will make the job of spring garden clean up much easier and faster. Here are a few of my favorites…

  • Garden shears – Since pruning is a huge part of tidying your garden in the spring, you’ll definitely need a nice pair of shears. Always make sure they are clean and sharp before getting started.
  • Heavy-duty hand pruners – Regular shears are great for most jobs. But these heavy-duty hand pruners are designed to make cutting through thick stems and branches effortless.
  • Loppers for thick branches and stems – I never knew I needed a pair of loppers until I tried them. This amazing tool makes it super easy to cut through thick roots, or tree and shrub branches like they’re butter!
  • Hand rake – This handy tool is used for removing leaves and other debris around plants and stems. A hand rake is especially useful when you’re cleaning up around prickly or thorny plants.
  • Weeding tool – This is another slick tool you didn’t know you needed until you have one! The Cobrahead weeder and a hook saw are both great for digging into the soil, and quickly and easily uprooting weeds and grass.
  • Hedge shears – Another good tool to have as you work to spring clean your garden is a pair of hedge shears. They make quick work of cutting down dead perennials, or shaping unruly shrubs.

Spring garden clean up is important in order to keep your beds healthy and beautiful. It can be a bit overwhelming, but taking the time to get it done will make summer maintenance much easier.

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More Garden Cleaning Tips

  • 5 Essential Fall Garden Tasks You Should Never Skip
  • How To Winterize Your Garden In The Fall
  • 5 Tips To Simplify Fall Garden Cleanup
  • How To Prepare Your Vegetable Garden For Winter

Share your spring garden clean up tips in the comments section below.

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