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Checklist for Spring Cleaning in the Garden

Looking for ways to clean up your garden? Here’s a quick checklist for spring cleaning to prepare the garden for the next growing season.

Whether you have a flower or vegetable garden, there are certain things we need to do to prepare the beds in spring.

It’s such an exciting time of year for the gardener too.

With the start of the growing season, comes growth, new experiences, and the greening up in the landscape.

It’s my favorite time of year because I love to see my plants break ground.

What survived the winter.

What didn’t.

Deciding what to do differently. And all of the planning that goes in between. There are lots of things gardeners do to clean up and prepare the gardens for spring.

Here’s a checklist to get you started when cleaning up the garden.

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close up of creme caramel coreopsis

But First…Spring Cleaning vs Fall Garden Clean Ups

When do you prefer to do your garden clean-ups?

For me, I prefer cleaning up the garden in spring rather than fall. While the answer is a matter of personal preference, here’s why focus more on spring cleaning in the garden, than fall.

  • I like leaving the perennial seed heads for the birds to eat during the colder months when food is scarce.
  • Leaving dried, dead perennial plant debris up in fall and winter allows plants to reseed themselves in the garden. This means they will drop seed and new plants will grow in other areas of the garden. And for me, it is a thrill to see where the newbies emerge in spring.
  • When seed heads and deceased perennials remain intact until spring they add winter interest. If we cut everything back, gardens look flat and boring throughout winter. When left intact, the snow sits on them and adds winter interest.
My Early Spring in the Garden Tour with close up of double flowering daffodil with white petals and orange centers

When Should I Clean My Garden in Spring?

That first warm spring day is the best day to get started! That’s the day I go outside, rake out the beds, and start spring cleaning by removing dead garden debris.

Some of the debris is loose on the ground. And others I need to cut back to the ground, then rake it out.

There are also usually leaves leftover from fall, branches and twigs from trees, as well as annual and perennial plant debris that all needs to be cleaned up.

Since I have a lot of gardens, I break them down into sections so the clean-up does not seem as daunting.

close up of myostotis - forget-me-nots -My Early Spring in the Garden Tour

I try to tell myself to “just do the front gardens.”

But oftentimes, I wind up doing the whole property in a day anyway.

Depending on the size of the task, I’ll either use a wheelbarrow or pop-up garden container to collect the debris.

While I love using the wheelbarrow, I prefer using the pop-up garden container because it’s light, collapsible, easy to move around, and holds so much!

white rhododendron flowers

How Do You Know What Plants to Clean Up Cut Back?

For starters, any annuals you planted the following year that are completely dried and dead, pull out or cut back.

If we had a mild New Jersey winter, I have occasionally seen an annual bounce back but that is rare. I plant winter pansies in the fall and do not pull these out or cut them back.

If you plant pansies in the fall, they should overwinter and bounce back in the spring (depending where you live). You will know if they survived the winter by looking for green foliage, stems or other signs of life.

close up of purple pansies in the garden

If unsure, I recommend leaving them alone until you know they are completely dead.

Where perennials are concerned, it really depends on the plants you have.

Not all perennials should be cut back.

The easiest way to do this is to keep the plant tag that comes with every plant or take a picture of that tag with your cell phone and file it in your phone.

When the growing season begins, do some online research as to how to prepare that plant for spring.

In most cases, it will be obvious because you will see new growth at the base. But in other cases, it will not be as obvious.

Magnolia flowers in spring - My Early Spring in the Garden Tour

Therefore, it is wise to double-check before cutting a plant to the ground that should not have been cut.

The same concept applies to flowering trees and shrubs – you need to know what you have to know when and how to prune them.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked why a certain shrub did not bloom. Oftentimes it is because it was pruned at the wrong time.

If you cut a plant back that has buds on it, well, you just cut the flower buds off. Therefore, I cannot stress enough how important it is to know what plants you have.

Daffodils at sunset
spring cleaning in the garden

Not Sure What Plants You Have?

Contact your local garden extension because they can help identify plants. It’s an easy call to make and so worth it to ensure you get blooms!

How Do I Get Rid of Garden Debris After Spring Cleaning?

Our municipality has a leaf, twig, and branch pick-up program in spring and fall, so I am only going to address the other garden waste from my annuals and perennials.

As a gardener, there are two options of what to do with garden debris: toss it with the rest of the garden debris (ask your local municipality how best to dispose of it) or compost it.

Here is a great recipe for composting that will improve the health of your garden.

I compost most if not all of our garden debris because eventually breaks down and produces very good soil, AKA, liquid gold. The only garden debris I do not put in my compost pile is weeds.

If I pull weeds, I dispose of them with other garden waste that I am not composting.


Because I do not want them to drop seed or germinate in the pile.

If it did, I would then spread those weeds back to my garden which I definitely do not want!

roses in my jersey garden

Mulching After Spring Garden Clean-Up

To mulch or not to mulch…that is the question. I like to mulch yearly because it helps suppress the weeds and makes my garden flowers pop.

Since I work so much in the gardens all season long, the mulch washes out or gets dug in to the soil with plantings.

Plus, it does break down and enrich the soil. If there are budgetary concerns, mulching yearly can be quite costly.

Paying someone else to do it is astronomically more expensive than buying it in bulk and doing it yourself. I know a few gardeners that re-fluff their mulch in alternate years instead of purchasing yearly.

While I know that works for some, because I work the beds so often, it does not work for me.

Therefore, I prefer to mulch yearly.

Happy gardening with dark horse wiegela, peonies and container gardening

Quick Spring Cleaning Checklist for the Garden

Spring is a great time to get your garden cleaned up and ready for the growing season. Here are some tips and tasks to consider for your garden spring cleaning:

  • Remove leaves and debris from garden beds.
  • Prune shrubs and trees.
  • Divide and transplant perennials.
  • Add compost and leaf mold.
  • Test soil to help you make informed decisions about what to grow and what amendments to add to the soil.
  • Mulch garden beds.
  • Pull dead annuals.
  • Remove dead growth from perennials.
  • Pull the weeds.
  • Make clean edges in garden beds.
  • Clean and sharpen tools.
  • Plant seeds and seedlings.
  • Feed roses if you grow them.
How to Take Care of Plants While on Vacation

More About Planting in Containers

Do you grow flowers, herbs or vegetables in containers? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I would love to know more in the comments below.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!

And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.

Close up of daffodils in a garden that - I cut some for afor a centerpiece idea

More Spring Gardening Posts

Recent Garden Tours

If you want to check out my new gardens throughout the season you can see them here:

But I also share weekly pics of the gardens in my Sunday updates.

Subscribe here so you don’t miss out on the gardening inspo!

Fall garden in front of vintage farmhouse with rudbeckia, hostas, sedum autumn joy and hardy hibiscus on a sunny day

Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?

If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.

From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant or ones that attract more butterflies and hummingbirds, to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.

Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.

close up of snapdragon flowers near stone wall in the garden


Have you started your spring garden clean-up yet?

To me, this is the best time of the year to work in the garden. The temps are seasonable and I’m full of inspiration and energy.

I’m so ready to get back out there and love seeing the new growth!

Happy Gardening!

close up of creme caramel coreopsis
Click here to shop my vintage farmhouse with close up of the front porch with flowers

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

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lilac blooms and a garden shed on the happy gardening tour
perennials vs annuals
Spring Garden Flowers
close up of pink Tulips that are amazing spring garden flowers that bring joy
close up of white Early Spring Tulips
creeping phlox and yellow pansies in My Early Spring in the Garden tour
Daffodils in the spring garden
spring cleaning up in the garden tips with viburnum
close up of purple pansies and forget me nots -My Early Spring in the Garden Tour
My Early Spring in the Garden Tour with close up of muscari
After deadheading flowers

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