University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article


By Diana Lawrence, Extension Master Gardener
University of Vermont

Groundhog Day has come and gone, and the countdown to spring has begun. Across Vermont, gardeners are beginning to pine for planting season. Knowing that the coast won’t be clear until Memorial Day has passed, it can be an awfully long wait to get into the garden again. Here's how to pass the time productively until the soil warms up.

Start a garden journal. I love going through garden magazines and clipping out great color combinations and seed suggestions, then pasting them in for spring reference. Make note of which plants come to life first, ideas for better composting, and thoughts for the vegetable bed.

Attend a flower show. There are many horticultural happenings throughout February and March in almost every New England state, including the Vermont Flower Show in early March.  Recognized by the state Chamber of Commerce as one of Vermont's top ten winter events, this event includes themed displays, educational seminars, exhibitors, floral competitions, and creative kids' activities.  For more information call (802) 865-5979 or visit

Crack open your seed catalogs. Now is the time to order your seeds, new perennials, and summer-blooming bulbs. Think about the bare spots, new garden beds, container garden combinations, and this year's vegetable selection. Why not do a little surfing. The World Wide Web is full of great advice, specialty sources, and interesting plant pairings.

Spruce up your houseplants. Check to see if they're becoming pot-bound (their roots will be peeking through the bottom drainage hole), trim their roots, and repot them to give them more room. Dust the leaves, cut back dead or yellow growth, add fresh potting soil, and serve up a little fertilizer.

Do your chores. If the snowdrops and crocuses can brave March weather, so can you! Clean away dead leaves and winter trash, and break up piles of snow and ice. Cut back ornamental grasses in early March to make way for new growth (don't wait too long or you'll slice off the new shoots with the old).

Visit a greenhouse. Nurseries are filling up with new pots and planters, great tools, seed selections, bird feeders, and plants. Take home an Easter lily, a pot of tulips, miniature daffodils, or some primulas to keep your home in bloom, or pick up a pretty container and a handful of grass seed and grow your own indoor patch of lawn.

Put out some pansies. These cheerful little souls are colorful, cold hardy, and will tolerate some snow and a little frost, so find a place for them on your doorstep in late March or early April. Deadhead them often for a robust display.

Take stock of your tools. Send your lawn mower out for a tune-up, bring your wheelbarrow out of hiding, sharpen your pruners, clean out clay pots with hot water and a little household bleach, and replace your worn-out gloves. Every spring I find I have forgotten how many pots I broke during fall cleanup. Now is the time to buy new ones.

Force some spring blooming shrubs and trees such as forsythia, crabapple, or pussywillow, and give Mother Nature a head start in your home. Bring several branches inside, cut the ends of the stems at a slight angle, and make a few slits about two to three inches long around the base for increased water uptake.

Put the branches in a tall bucket of water and keep them in a cool, dimly lighted place for several days, misting them occasionally and changing the water each day, then move them to a sunny location when blooms begin to show.

Start some seeds indoors. Remember, seedlings need 16 hours of direct light every day, so invest in a grow light to keep them strong and bushy.

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