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Statewide Cave City Little Rock Pine Bluff Sherwood Van Buren Ward
Statewide Culture 0

Gardening in Arkansas: Spring Pre-Planting Tasks


As the days grow longer, my excitement for spring gardening in Arkansas reaches its peak. Every year I am tempted to dive right into planting on the first warm day and find myself scrambling to cover plants and praying for the best every time a frost occurs. The final frost date, typically in the first week or two of April here in central Arkansas, is a crucial marker for our gardens. While I have decided to take things a little slower this year, there’s no need to sit idle! There are several cool-season crops (broccoli, peas and some lettuce) that can be safely planted now, and plenty of preparatory tasks to ensure your garden is ready for the main planting season. Join me as I share some spring pre-planting projects to get your garden in top shape for the coming season!

In late fall, months of weeding, watering, harvesting, and preserving have completely exhausted me. I am essentially crawling to the finish line and there are many years when winter is looming, and I simply close the garden gate and walk away. In general, gardeners are divided on whether you should clean in the fall or wait until spring. I’ve done it both ways, and I’m more of a “do what works for you” kind of gardener. So, this year, we’ve got some spring cleaning to do and plenty to keep us busy while we tick off the days until our last frost date.

Garden Clean Up

Our first task every spring is to grab a large trash bag and go on trash patrol. We remove broken planters, trellis strings, leaky buckets, old plant markers, and anything else that doesn’t belong. It’s always shocking how much stuff accumulates in our small garden space.

This is also the perfect time to make repairs. We’ve got a few fence posts and a section of fencing that needs replacing this year. I also use this time to look over my garden tools and make repairs or replace any that are no longer in working condition. I check all of my hoses for leaks and gather all of the parts and pieces needed for my drip irrigation system.

Next, we remove any dead plant material and do some light weeding. I have raised beds, so I like to leave the roots behind on many plants because they add nitrogen back to the soil. I trim back any plant tops that got overlooked in the fall and remove the handful of weeds that have started to pop up. This is also a great time to remove old mulch and prune perennials.


Especially in a raised bed garden, weed fabric and mulch can keep pathways clean and minimize the weeds that spread to the garden beds. Each spring, I like to tidy all of my pathways and lay down a fresh layer of mulch. Fortunately, adding mulch doesn’t have to be expensive. A large portion of our land is planted in Loblolly Pine, our state tree. The pine needles that fall over the fall and winter are perfect for mulching garden paths. If you don’t have a grove of pine trees, check out these mulch resources. Many Arkansas cities have mulching and compost centers that are available for free or at a low cost to local residents. Call your local sanitation department if your city isn’t listed below.

Searcy Mulch/Compost Center
Pulaski County Government
Monticello City Transfer
Rogers Recycling Center
Fayetteville Tree Climbers
Fayetteville Compost Center
Heber Springs Compost and Mulch

Work the Soil

Winter takes a toll on a garden bed. I grab a rake and loosen up the compacted soil, which allows air and water to circulate better and sets the stage for happy roots.

It always amazes me how much soil is lost in my garden beds each year. I often try to lay down some hot manure in the fall so it has time to compost in the beds over the winter. If I miss my window, I will use the spring to add a nice mixture of finished compost, alpaca manure or worm compost, soil and organic matter like dead leaves or peat moss. This replenishes the soil with much-needed nutrients that will help new plants to grow well all season long. Check out Spring Gardening in Arkansas: 15 Things To Do Now for specific tips on how to test and amend your soil.

Build Something

Adding raised beds and planters to your garden can be an expensive task. You can build your own with a few basic power tools and some lumber or wood scraps. My 7-year-old son and I have successfully built bucket gardens, trellises and raised beds that have taken our garden to the next level.

Bucket Garden Stan Plans

Shop for Plants and Seeds

If you’ve got a greenhouse or a sunny window, you can get a head start on the season by purchasing plants and starting seeds. I also like to window shop the local nurseries planning what to buy when the weather warms just a bit more. A few of our favorite Arkansas garden centers include:

Park Brothers Farm and Garden Center – Van Buren
Arkansas Garden Center – Sherwood
Good Earth Garden Center – Little Rock
Westwood Gardens – Several Northwest Arkansas Locations
Evans Nursery – Ward
Leona’s Garden – Cave City
Shell Ross – Pine Bluff

With these simple spring pre-planting preps under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to a thriving summer harvest. Remember, gardening is a journey of learning and discovery. Don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty and experiment! And if you ever have questions along the way, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is a fantastic resource for Arkansas gardeners. Their website and county offices offer a wealth of information on everything from planting guides to pest control. Happy gardening!

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and teaches art part-time at a local private school. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas where they raise chickens, farm hay and bake bread. Julie loves adventure and sharing it with her husband and son. They frequent the trails, campgrounds and parks of Arkansas, always on the hunt for new adventures and new stories to share. Learn more on her blog Seek Adventures Media.

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