In my family, my mom is the one with the "green thumb." We often joke that the rest of us got varying shades of "brown" and "black," depending on how disastrous our yards look in any given season.

But this year, I’m determined to do everything right! After all, what’s more satisfying than picking fresh scented roses from your own garden for free (and walking right by those $19.99 bouquets!)?

Where to find cheap (and free) supplies

These tips are quite cheap to implement—perhaps even free depending on what you already have on hand.

The most you may need to spend is a few bucks for a pH soil test kit, some fertilizer and, of course, any bulbs or seeds you want to plant!

Use these KCL tips to get good deals, advice, and more to prepare your lawn and garden for spring!

5 Key elements of lawn care

Any yard has five basic elements that need tending at various times throughout each season. A yard that produces the greenest grass and prettiest greenery and flowers will have a good balance of these five elements.

  • Grass: When your lawn is recovering from winter (which may include extended ice and snow), be sure to mow high for the first few times to let the grass recuperate.
  • Soil: The topsoil may be more alkaline or acidic in various areas. You can get a simple test kit at any local garden or home supply store (most greenery prefers neutral pH of 6.2 – 7.2, so that should be what you’re aiming for).
  • Aerate and water: If your lawn has become thickly thatched, it may need aeration (pulling out plugs to allow the roots below to better circulate air and water). You will also want to be sure you give your lawn a nice deep watering once the last thaw has passed.
  • Leaves and other debris: While allowing debris and leaves to pile up in winter can serve as a type of mulch to protect greenery and bulbs below from ice and snow, you want to be sure to rake this debris away before beginning your spring planting.
  • Seeds and fertilizer: Finally, you’ll need to have the seeds or bulbs you want to plant, along with the right fertilizer for your greenery and flowers on hand for the spring planting season.

Fixing problem areas

Sometimes winter can create problems that need to be resolved before your lawn and garden will be ready for a spring planting. Here is what to do to fix these common issues.

  • Uneven topsoil: If you find you have valleys and hills instead of a smooth even lawn, you’ll want to add new topsoil before beginning the spring planting.
  • Compacted soil and thatch: If your lawn has been trapped beneath ice or snow for some time, the weight can cause something called "soil compaction." Basically, this means your soil has become very dense, and this makes it hard for new roots to push their way through. Thatched grass (a dense tangle of above-ground roots) can cause a similar problem. You can use an aerator plus a rake to break up dense soil and root tangles.
  • Patchy grass: If you have seasonal issues with grass that won't grow well in some areas of your lawn, you may need to even out your soil pH. You can use a soil pH kit to test, and then you can add nutrients to balance out your soil.
  • Weeds: For best results, choose a slow-release, nitrogen rich fertilizer and be sure to follow the package instructions (too much will burn, too little won't help).
  • Frying grass: Be sure to mow for your type of grass (in all cases, remove only the top 1/3 of the blade with each mowing) to avoid burned grass. For St. Augustine, leave 2-4 inches. For Bermuda grass, leave 1-2 inches. For Kentucky Bluegrass, leave 2-3.5 inches. For Fescue grass, leave 2-3.5 inches. For Zoysia grass, leave 0.5-1.5 inches.
  • Brown grass: If you are watering regularly and your grass is still brown, try watering less. If your grass is truly on its last leg or your plants just don’t want to make it—I swear by this all natural fertilizer. I don’t have a green thumb, so it’s really saved me (along with my lawn and plants) some major pain and suffering.

8 Steps to preparing garden beds

Once you have your lawn ready for spring's warmth, all that’s left is to prep your garden beds!

  • Remove all debris, weeds, last year's dead roots and old mulch.
  • Level and mulch garden beds with fresh, nutritious mulch, compost and/or manure.
  • Wait to plant until the last frost has passed.
  • Wait to plant until soil is workable (for young roots).
  • Plant bulbs in early spring.
  • Prune fruit trees.
  • Divide perennials and add stakes to support them as they grow.
  • Use barrier paper and other eco-friendly options to help control pests.
Get Your Yard Ready for Pretty Spring Flowers with These Tips!