Reduce your grocery bills this year by growing your own food. It's easier than you think to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Plant cool-season varieties, such as radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower as soon as you can work the ground this month -- these plants survive frosty weather. While you're out, add some pansies to your spring vegetable garden. They'll add color, and you can use the cheery blooms in salads.
If you want to get a jump start on the season, plant seeds of warm-loving varieties such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers indoors under fluorescent lights.
If you left any perennials or grasses standing over winter, cut back the dead stems before or as the plants put out new growth.
Here's a hint: Cut dead stems back to 3 or 4 inches tall. This will help you remember where late-emerging varieties such as perennial hibiscus and butterfly weed are. Plus, the stubs may stop rabbits and other critters from nibbling on your plants' new growth.
Remove winter mulch from your perennial gardens once you notice new growth emerging from your plants. Afterward, watch for weeds. Early season varieties such as chickweed and henbit thrive in cool temperatures and may start sprout.
You can also go ahead and prune summer-blooming shrubs such as butterfly bush and rose of Sharon. Wait to prune your spring-blooming shrubs (such as forsythia and lilacs) until they've finished blooming so you don't cut off next year's flowers.
This is also the season to prune back roses. Typically, you'll want to cut hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses to about 6 inches tall.
If your landscape trees need pruning, now's the month to do it. (Except oaks; it's best to avoid pruning oaks right now to reduce the threat of disease.)
Make sure your tools are in good working order before you need them. Using a metal file, sharpen the edges of your shovel, hoe, and pruners -- the sharp edges will make them easier to use.
Divide many of your perennials later this month as they start to emerge from the soil. Most perennials do best when divided every three years or so, but some vigorous growers could use splitting every two or three years.
Replant the divisions to fill in holes in your garden or use them to trade for other plants with gardening friends.
Here's a hint: It's best to wait and divide many spring-blooming favorites such as bleeding heart and barrenwort after they've finished blooming.
And you'll want to hold off dividing your peonies until fall.
If annual weeds such as crabgrass are a problem in your yard, stop them in their tracks by applying a pre-emergence herbicide. Watch for your forsythia to bloom -- that's typically a good indicator of when it's best to treat your lawn for crabgrass.
Even though your grass may be starting to green up, it's probably too early to fertilize. Wait a month or so until your grass is actively growing before feeding it.
As the days grow longer, you'll probably start to see more growth on your houseplants. You can typically start watering them a little more and feeding them this month to help them push new growth.
Take cuttings from your favorite houseplants if you want to use any outdoors this summer. For example, spider plants can make a fun edging plant or groundcover in shade. Let philodendron or pothos start to climb a tree.