Spring Cleaning Your Garden - Getting Your Garden Ready to Grow
There's no point in pretending you're not going to be out in your garden the first warm second of spring. While there is no harm in cleaning up fallen branches and debris, wait until the soil is no longer wet enough to form a ball in your hand, before walking on it and compacting it. But don't wait too long to start your clean up. It's much easier to cut plants back before the old growth gets tangled up in the new growth.
Flower Garden Spring Clean-Up
The first task is removing and composting any dead annual plants that remained over winter. These will not return and any self-seeders will already have done their job. If you didn't prune back your perennials last fall, they're probably looking pretty ugly as spring sets in. Many perennials actually prefer to be left standing throughout the winter, for extra protection. But by definition, herbaceous perennials will die back to the ground during winter. If you did leave your perennials will die back to the ground during winter. If you did leave your perennials...MORE standing last Autumn, once you start to see new growth at the base of the plants, it's safe to begin removing winter mulch and pruning them down to ground level.
Some shrubby plants with woody stems like artemisia, buddleia, caryopteris, lavender... need to be cut back each spring because they only bloom on new branches. These are pruned in the spring to limit winter damage and to encourage the plant to start sending out those new flowering branches. It's best to wait until danger of a hard frost is past. Most of these woody perennials will let you know when it's time to prune them by showing signs of opening buds on the lower stem portions or new...MORE growth at the base of the plants.
Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Perennial Plants
Depending on where you are gardening, some perennial plants will never quite go dormant, but they may still need tidying up. Plants like Epimedium, Hellebores, Heuchera and bearded iris retain their leaves all winter. Spring is the time to trim back the tattered foliage and encourage new growth to come in.
If you left your ornamental grasses up for winter interest, you can cut them back as soon as you can get to them. You don't need to wait for new growth. Cut grasses to within a few inches of the ground. They'll come back up when they're ready.
Spring rose care depends very much on your climate. Roses grown in warm climates, where roses never go dormant, benefit from a good pruning and the removal of the majority leaves, to shock the rose into thinking it was dormant and needs to wake up and start growing again. Where roses did go dormant, spring care should begin just as the leaf buds begin to plump up.
Trees & Shrubs
Most spring blooming trees and shrubs set their flower buds in the summer or Autumn of last year. Pruning them in the spring, before they've bloomed, would mean pruning off this year's flowers.
Most evergreens should require little to no spring care other than some tidying up. Spring is a good time to fertilize evergreens because they are actively growing at this time. However, if the soil is healthy and rich, you should only need to feed your evergreens about every other year. Look for a well-balanced food labeled especially for evergreens.
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