It’s spring in Buffalo! 7 gardening tasks you can do outside now

by Connie Oswald Stofko

pansies
You can enjoy pansies outside now. Photo courtesy Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses

by Connie Oswald Stofko

It’s spring on the calendar, and it feels likes spring in our gardens, too! Snowdrops and crocuses are blooming while daffodils and hyacinths are budding. It’s been sunny and warm outside!

Here are a few things you can do in your spring garden in Western New York.

Take a walk in your yard

Plant pansies

Pansies are a cool weather annual. They don’t mind cool temperatures and they can tolerate some frost. That’s why you can put a pot of pansies out now and leave it out.

Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses in Williamsville has them in stock now. To check on availability at other garden centers, go to our Gardening Directory for their contact information.

Weed your gardens

We’ve had mild–even warm!– weather in Western New York, so your soil should be thawed enough to pull up some weeds. The soil should be damp enough that the roots come out easily, too.

Cut back ornamental grass

Cut back ornamental grass to several inches above ground level. You may already see the new, green growth starting.

Cut a few branches to force inside

Your spring shrubs, such as forsythia, pussywillow and crabapple, aren’t blooming yet, but you can force them to bloom inside now, said David Clark, horticulture instructor. Cut off a few branches, take them inside and place them in a vase of water.

Bonus tip: Sign up for horticulture classes with Clark at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

Clean out your garage or shed

We’re limited in the number of things that we can do outdoors now, but before you know it, there will be lots to do in our gardens. Get ready by organizing your pots and cleaning your tools. You’ll be glad you did.

Hook up your rain barrel

In the winter we have to unhook our rain barrels from the water source to prevent the barrel from cracking. We probably won’t get temperatures now that are low enough and consistent enough to freeze a barrel full of water, so we can hook them up again.

Not only do they provide you with a convenient source of water for your gardens, rain barrels can help the environment, too.

Buy a rain barrel or composter

You can buy rain barrels and rain barrel diverters from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

Rain barrels, compost bins and accessories are available in a sale being held by Erie County, in partnership with the Western NY Stormwater Coalition, the City of Buffalo, and the Town of Wheatfield. The deadline to order is May 8. You’ll pick up your item in Buffalo or Wheatfield on May 19, 20 or 22. Get all the details here.

Don’t rush on these tasks

Raking

It’s so tempting to clear out leaf litter now, but if you do that, you may be harming bees, said Pamela A. Moore, Master Gardener.

“In my Master Gardener class we were told to avoid raking until we ACTUALLY observed bees flying about,” Moore said. “Other sources state that there should be no raking until there have been SUSTAINED temperatures above 50 degrees. Personally, I follow the temperature guidelines combined WITH observation. That is the best way to know that you are not unintentionally disturbing the queen bees that spend the winter in small holes ON or just below the surface.”

She cites the article “Bring Back the Bees” on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website site that states: “Because most queens overwinter in small holes on or just below the ground’s surface, avoid raking, tilling or mowing your yard until April or May. If you do need to mow, do so with the mower blade set at the highest safe level.”

Summer seeds

It may be too soon to start seeds inside. Starting your seeds too early for summer plants is worse than starting them too late.

But now is a good time to start cool weather vegetables.

16 Comments on “It’s spring in Buffalo! 7 gardening tasks you can do outside now

  1. Hi Connie, thanks for the great tips. Didn’t know about raking until bees fly. I when is a good time to spread the milky spores ( I forget the name) around my giant Northern hibiscus and rose of Sharon to kill Japanese beetle larvae?

  2. Rabbits did considerable damage to my young Junipers. Will they ever vome back to how they once were? Also I was able to overwinter a fuschia tree. It was oding fine for awhile but now it has no leaves and the top branches are brittle but the trunk is still green. What are the chances that it will come back? THXXXXAMILLION!!

  3. Thanks for the info on the celandine. I did spray w/ a vinegar based weed killer to get a jump-start on it but will probably try digging it also. It’s an evil little weed.🙀

  4. IT’s also a good time to cut back your buddleia bushes( butterfly bushes)! If you want to trim you can cut down 1/3 or if you want to really trim them down to stay smaller you can cut to 2-3 inches above ground level -fuller bushes and a little later bloom time

  5. Now is also the time to cut off the old leaves from the hellebores. This will allow the flowers to put on there wonderful display. Also if you accidently cut off a flower while removing leaves, be sure to take it inside for an indoor floral arrangement. Be sure to singe the cut stem before putting them in water – this keeps the flowers fresh for a long time, prevents their wilting.

  6. I sprayed last year to no avail so this year I’m digging it out. Come out with the bulbs attached

  7. Hi Connie, I was really upset to see so much lesser celandine- especially in a bed that didn’t have it last year! I know you said last year that once the flowers start blooming it’s too late to spray ( organically of course ) but is it too early? Help!!!

  8. While I was picking up sticks in the yard, I noticed lots of deer and rabbit droppings. It is not too early to clean up the grass.

  9. I really like reading your news letter. I was just about to clean my leaves from my garden. Now I will wait. Thanks

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