But some shrubs and small trees are exceptions to that rule. Forsythia, rhododendrons and dogwoods should be pruned right after flowering, because the buds that produce next year’s flowers form during the late spring and summer. If you prune those plants in early spring or in the fall, you’ll cut off many blooms. Broken or dead branches can be pruned at any time.
Early spring is also the time to spray fruit trees with dormant oil to ward off insects. It must be done before the buds open or the oil will damage the flowers that produce the fruit. It’s also a good time to fertilize fruit trees.
As the season progresses a bit, you can plant trees and shrubs as long as you can dig in the soil. If it’s very wet, though, it’s better to wait for it to dry out so that the soil doesn’t get compacted.
That first early walk-through might reveal problems with paths, stone walls or other stone structures. But while those problems are visible in the very early spring, that’s not necessarily the right time to address them.
“Typically I like to wait until the frost is out of the ground before setting paving stones or building retaining walls,” Schmitt said. “When there is frost in the ground, the heaving process can cause a lot of movement.”
Trimbell said that repairs of certain damaged structures might require a two-stage approach of deconstruction before construction.
“If a flood goes through and damages a retaining wall along a stream bank, we will go in and clean up the debris from the damage, salvage whatever is still usable to rebuild the wall and the stream bank, then, if need be, bring in new materials such as large rocks to retain the bank wall,” Trimbell said, adding that he is beginning a project of that type at an area school.