Time to venture outdoors for some serious gardening—planting, pruning and cleanup.

The start of spring means it's time to head outside and get busy in your garden. Prep soil, plant cool-season crops, prune or plant trees and some shrubs, and prepare lawns for the upcoming growing season. What you do in March sets the stage for a successful garden and yard throughout the spring and summer.

Pansies and hyacinths in containers
Pansies and hyacinths

Time to Get Planting

Cool-Season Flowers

About six to eight weeks before your region's last average frost date, you can put in pansies, violas, lobelia, snapdragons and other cool-season flowers. They thrive in cool weather and tolerate frosts well. They're especially good in pots.

Cool-Season Edibles and Herbs

It's time to put cool-season annual edibles and perennial herbs outdoors. These include seedlings you've started indoors or purchased at a garden center: parsley, cilantro, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and Brussels sprouts.

How to start seeds indoors

Warm-Season Plants

Start seeds of warm-season plants indoors; most vegetable and annual flower seeds should be started six to eight weeks before your region's last average frost date—and for most of the Midwest, that means starting seeds now. Check package directions for suggested timing, however.

Trees, Shrubs and Roses

You can plant both bare-root and container-grown types of trees, shrubs and roses as long as the soil is well-thawed and you can work it easily to the needed depth.

Southern Midwest Planting

In the southern part of our region, plant radishes and spinaches as soon as the soil is thawed and you can work it easily. You also can plant potatoes—St. Patrick's Day is the traditional planting day in this part of the country.

Spring pruning

Tackle Pruning Chores

Prune Most Trees and Some Shrubs 

Delay pruning spring-blooming shrubs so you don't trim off developing flowers. Most other shrubs will benefit from a little trimming now.

Prune Roses

Once roses send out tiny red buds that will turn into stems, they are ready for pruning. When the stems are about 1/2 inch long, the rose is pretty well out of dormancy. You should be able to tell what wood is alive and what has been killed by winter cold and should be removed.

Spray Fruit Trees  

Dormant oil, available at garden centers, prevents scale insects, spider mites and other pests later in the season. Spray fruit trees with the oil when temperatures are above 40 degrees. You can also spray dormant oil on roses and other trees and shrubs that have been troubled by pests in the past.

Raking lawns for spring

Spruce Up Lawns For Spring

Rake Old Leaves 

You'll feel like you're giving your yard a fresh spring start when you remove the remnants of winter—late-falling leaves, sticks and trash that may have blown in during the winter months.

Cut Back Perennials 

If you didn't do this in the fall, cut them back now.

Pull Away Winter Mulch 

As soon as you see signs of new growth, pull away and lean up any straw or leaves you applied in the fall to protect perennials.

Fertilize in spring

Perk Up Warm-Season Grasses

If you live in the Southern Midwest and have a lawn with warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass and zoysia, fertilize and apply a preemergent herbicide at the end of the month.