At the first warm sign of spring, we’re all ready to be out in our gardens cleaning up fallen branches and debris. But, before walking on your yard and compacting it, you should wait until the soil is no longer wet and you can’t form a ball in your hand with the soil. Don’t wait too long to start your clean up, cutting plants back before the old growth gets tangled up in new growth is always easier.
Any self-seeders will have already done their job so removing and composting dead annual plants that remained over winter is the first task.
Your perennials are probably looking pretty ugly as spring sets in, especially if you didn’t prune them back last fall. For extra protection, most perennials prefer to be left standing alone throughout the winter. During the winter, herbaceous perennials will die back to the ground. If you left your perennials standing last fall, it’s safe to begin removing winter mulch and pruning them down to ground level once you start to see new growth at the base of the plants.
Lavender, Artemisia, caryopteris, buddleia – shrubby plants with woody stems – should be cut back each spring, this is because they only bloom on new branches. To limit winter damage and to encourage the plant to start sending out new flowering branches, these plants should be pruned in spring. Waiting for the danger of a hard frost to pass is always best. Opening buds on the lower stem portions or new growth at the base of the plants are signs that tell you it’s time to prune these woody perennials.
Some perennial plants like epemedium, hellebores, heuchera and bearded iris will never quite go dormant. Depending on where you garden, these perennials retain their leaves all winter. To encourage new growth, spring is the perfect time to trim back the tattered foliage.
There is no need to wait for new growth if you left your ornamental grasses up during the winter, you can cut them back when you have the time to get to them. Cutting the grasses within a few inches of the ground will help them come back when they’re ready.
Your climate will determine your spring rose care. Roses never go dormant when grown in warm climates so shocking the rose into thinking it was dormant and needs to wake up can be done by giving them a good pruning and removing the majority of their leaves. If you live in an area where roses do go dormant, you should begin your spring care just as the leaf buds begin to show.
During the summer or fall of the previous year is when most spring blooming trees and shrubs set their flower buds. If you prune them in the spring, before they’ve bloomed, you risk the chance of pruning of this year’s flowers.
Other than some tidying up, most evergreens require little to no spring care. Because evergreens actively grow at this time, spring is a good time to fertilize. You should only need to feed your evergreens about every other year if the soil is healthy and rich. For evergreens, you should look for well-balanced food labels.
You should take some pro-active weeding action in the early spring. Weed seedlings are much easier to pull when the soil is damp. Composting weeds is never a good idea – they will inevitably come back to haunt you.
Any plant material that shows signs of disease, seed heads, weeds or otherwise could become a problem, so disposal is key. However, most of what you clean up can go into your compost pile and it’s always best to start a new pile in spring and leave your old pile to flip and use.
Before adding things to your soil, it’s always wise to test it. Check to see how balanced your soil is if you amended it last fall. When plants are having their initial growth spurt, they enjoy a good spring feeding. Top dressing with compost, manure or a complete slow release organic fertilizer should be all you need if you have rich, healthy soil.
Ideally, spring is the best time for dividing or transplanting. It’s best to do this after the plant emerges. If you catch them early, when the weather is still mild and they’re raring to grow, you will be amazed how quickly plants recover from this abusive treatment.
One of the most tedious tasks for most gardeners is staking. Rather than procrastinating, it will be easier on your plants of you just jump in and stake! Yes, they look ugly for a few weeks, but allowing your plants to grow into the stakes will save you headaches when you’re trying to squeeze the plants into them later.
Conserving water, feeding the soil, smothering weeds, cooling plant roots are a few of the wonderful things that mulch does for your garden. Every garden deserves a layer of mulch! Before replenishing your mulch, wait until the soil warms up and dries out a bit. Give your self-seeding plants a chance to germinate before covering the bed with mulch and make sure to keep it away from the stems and crowns of your plants.
Edging – the finishing touch! Nothing makes a garden bed look polished more than a crisp edge. The power of a clean edge will prevent your lawn from creeping into your flower bed.
Disposing of your spring garden cleaning is easy; if you’re not sure of how to dispose of limbs, branches and other trimmings, contact us today and we’ll be more than happy to guide you through the cleanup process!