GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Before you start planting your perennials and backyard garden, Michigan State University Extension wants you to get your soil tested.

The at-home kits will cost you $25. The lab analysis breaks down the nutrient levels in the dirt, specifically phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Rebecca Finneran, a senior horticulture educator, says the test itself will save you money in the long run because you won’t fall into the trap of buying the wrong fertilizer. Finneran also recommends low-release fertilizer because she says it’s better for your plants’ health and the environment.

“We don’t want to overdo it,” she said. “Especially with our high-water tables and watersheds that are very sensitive. We want to prevent [excess] nutrients from entering the water system. So, we really only want to fertilize according to what the soil test says that we need.”

Planting dates vary depending on where you live in West Michigan and could extend well past Mother’s Day. It’s the frost date that you’ll want to keep an eye on before your break ground in your backyard. Grand Rapids’ average last frost date is May 27, according to MSU Extension.

“Either way, plants don’t pay attention to our holidays,” Finneran said. “They certainly don’t recognize Mother’s Day. So be thinking about watching the weather and knowing when you got those evening temps that are not going to be that low.”

Although plant dates may still be weeks away, experts say you can start grooming and pruning your yard. Leaves that fell during the winter months can be left as ground cover for your plants or raked up and broken down for compost. Planting depth depends on seed size, but MSU Extension recommends planting seeds no deeper than twice their diameter.

Instead of just lobbing those [branches] off in a blunt way, think about using more of a thinning cut,” said Finneran. “That’s where you take that limb all the way back to its point of origin so that it actually doesn’t disrupt the beauty of the plant.”