Oh, spring, you love of my life!
This past week has given us a wonderful glimpse of what’s to come. The first bulbs are popping up and every day brings out some new little harbingers
of spring. My rhododendron buds are swelling, and our climbing rose is shedding last year’s leaves and setting new buds. If you’re like me, you’re probably wandering around your garden at least three times a day, inspecting every tree and shrub, scanning the ground for any little spot of green peeping out from under the leaf mulch. It’s glorious!
I’m itching to get my hands back into the dirt, but of course, this being the end of February, it’s still too early to actually get planting. So, what can be done?
There are actually quite a few chores that will help get your garden onto the right trajectory for when spring springs in earnest.
Number 1 chore for late winter: Pruning!
First, inspect your shrubs for winter damage and cut out all dead and injured stems. This is an important step, as these wounds provide entryways for disease. Next, tidy up and shape your shrub as desired. Prune out branches that grow inwards or rub on other branches, thinning them in the process, so sunlight can reach the center of the shrub. I recommend using pruners instead of electric hedge shears for this step. That said, make sure to thin and shape spring bloomers such as rhododendron, forsythia, lilac, etc. only after they are done blooming.
Tidy up around your plants
Remove dead foliage and leaves that have accumulated around your plants. Large leaves often create a thick impermeable layer that can smother young shoots, prevent water from reaching the root zone, and harbor pathogens. Perennial stalks left over the winter should be cut down now to make room for new growth. This should be done carefully, as tender shoots sometimes hide in between spent stalks and foliage.
Rejuvenate your soil
Once the danger of severe, killing frosts has passed, remove thick layers of old mulch and use a cultivator or your hands to work the lower layer of decomposed mulch into the soil. Applying compost or a well balanced organic fertilizer around your plants can give them a nice boost.
A word of caution: although tempting, it’s not a good idea to start working the soil too early. Soil that is still saturated with melting snow compacts easily and makes root growth very difficult.
Start planning and plotting!
Don’t forget to dream! I love walking around my reawakening yard, imagining what could be. This is often when I have my best ideas, because it’s all potential. Plus, if you’re thinking of redesigning your hardscaping, adding some new elements, or fixing existing ones, now is the perfect time.
Another thing you can do in early spring is start seeds indoors. This is a great activity to involve young children, and it gives such satisfaction to watch a plant develop close up.
Now you’re ready to count down to spring. I, for one, can’t wait! As always, please be in touch with any questions about pruning, planting, gardening – just drop me a line!