Last month I wrote about how much I love winter—and don’t get me wrong, I do!—but this year, we’ve had seemingly more than our normal share of winter weather and frankly, I’m ready to scratch my spring itch. Thankfully, the weather is improving and spring is beginning to arrive, so it’s time to make your early spring gardening to-do list.

Gardening in early spring is very weather-dependent, especially when it comes to spraying your plants for insects or diseases. Sprays require dry weather to do their work, and they’re not always easy to use, especially for larger trees. On any non-edible trees or larger shrubs, don’t forget that there is an easier alternative: using a systemic insecticide. A product like Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control, available at Vander Giessen Nursery, has two benefits: Not only does it provide protection all year long, it can be applied rain or shine. Simply add the proper amount to a bucket of water and pour it around the base of the tree you wish to protect. It’s really that simple!

As for timing on treatment, late February through early April is the perfect opportunity to treat non-flowering and evergreen trees like spruce. For flowering trees like ornamental plums, wait until just after blooming to apply Bonide Tree & Shrub to ensure season-long insect control while also protecting pollinators.

Although systemic products are effective and very easy to use, for fruit trees, sprays are the best method to safely control insects and diseases. While your plants are still dormant, choose a dry day and spray with horticultural oil to smother any insects that have overwintered on the branches of your trees.

If you’ve battled fungus issues like scab, mildew, or black spot—either on fruit trees or on other ornamental shrubs like roses—now is also a good time to dormant spray using Bonide Copper or Sulfur fungicides. Any of these products can be used during the growing season as well, but if you want to ensure your plants start out the season healthy, I would highly recommend a dormant spray treatment—after all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stop by the nursery and let us help recommend the right product for your application.

Beyond the less glamorous work of controlling garden pests and diseases, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the garden this time of year. Early spring plants are arriving regularly at the nursery now, and regardless the weather outside, it’s bound to feel like spring in a greenhouse. If you’re just plain sick of snow, winter cold, and the freeze-dried winter cabbage still in your pots from last fall, freshen up the look of your front porch with a new container of colorful perennials you can transplant out into your yard later this spring when you’re ready to use your containers for summer flowers.

One great up-and-coming plant that works well in pots is gaultheria, or wintergreen. Classic wintergreen has bright red berries this time of year with glossy green leaves tinged with red or bronze. ‘Peppermint Pearl,’ a new variety this year, adds a twist with pink berries. Both varieties are extremely hardy and make a nice evergreen groundcover when you’re done with them in your pots.

This time of year, more varieties of hellebores are starting to bloom—‘Penny’s Pink’ and ‘Platinum Rose’ being two of my favorites now bursting into color. And of course, primroses and spring pansies are the perfect pot filler for easy color and bright, happy faces that say “spring!”.

Unlike the last couple of years, this winter has brought us plenty of cold and snow. Winter’s grip, however, is beginning to fade, and as you get to work around the yard, enjoy the invigorating feel of working in the dirt once again.