Clean up your act from last year. If you didn't rake the leaves, now is the time to do that. You will find they're more broken down than they were in the fall, so you can either use them as mulch later or put them in your newly built compost bin with last week's sticks.

Test your soil, then plant some stuff. Do a simple soil texture test for readiness: Squeeze a handful of soil into a ball, then poke it with your finger. If it stays a tight ball, it's too wet to be worked and you should wait a few days. If it crumbles happily, you're good to go to plant lots of seeds now: leaf crops like lettuce, spinach, and the Asian greens; root crops like carrots, beets, turnips, and rutabagas. Cole crops like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale are just starting to be available in the box stores, so if you can get hold of them, they can be planted, too.

For heaven's sake, mow the lawn! It looks terrible right now, kind of like a bad hair day times 10. The Stars of Bethlehem are four times as tall as the grass, as is the garlic (which could be cut off and chopped into an omelet. You can't confuse the two, because they smell really, really different). Make sure you wash the garlic first, though, because these tall tufts on the lawn are always the first place a dog will urinate. This really annoyed me, so one year I put taller rocks at the corners of the lawn and now the roving dogs happily go there to mark their territory.

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ( and a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (