Spring Clean Up
Spring clean up time will soon be here. It's March, but I’m still looking at a snow covered garden, and maybe you are too, but I know it’s near. The birds are singing in the morning. I saw two sand hill cranes fly over today. The cat thought she wanted to go outside today (it was only a fleeting thought, but still).
In Tennessee my nephew started his tomatoes and pepper seeds. He says it’s only a month until he can plant them outside. Here in the north we’re not that close, but I’ve heard that the red wing black birds are back.
In fact, my sister, in central NY, saw a flock of a hundred or more land in her back yard yesterday. (They also got 16 inches of snow yesterday-but that’s beside the point). My money says the red wing black birds know that spring is almost here and therefore spring clean up is upon us also.
The snow drops and crocus are peaking out of the snow and there is nothing that can stop that joyous reaction when you see the first one hopefully budding out. Use that new found energy to make a list of things you want to accomplish within the next month or so. (That's the beginning of spring clean up!)because once it's on paper, you'll be more apt to actually do it.
This week end is the beginning of daylight savings time; another indication that spring is on its way. So where do you start?
Begin your spring clean up by collecting your gardening tools. Look at them critically. Wash them if necessary. Sand the rough spots off any wooden handles and give them a new coat of polyurethane or paint. Sharpen any cutting tools and tighten any screws and bolts. When spring finally arrives you will be all ready to go with clean fresh tools. Now do the same with all your empty pots and containers.
When the snow does finally disappear and the ground is firm enough to walk on you can rake off any heavy layers of leaves that have blown into corners of your garden and start to remove some of the protective dirt or mulch that you may have put around your roses buses and other tender perennials.
Cut down the dead grasses and other perennial stalks that you left standing throughout the winter. Check out the bushes in your yard. Remove any broken or obviously dead stems. Do not trim spring blooming bushes until after they bloom though because many of them bloom on year old branches and if you trim them now they won’t flower.
Rake the grass and using a small digger remove any big obvious weeds that you can find. This is a great time to weed in your garden, too. Weeds grow faster than your perennials at this time of year and you can easily see them and get rid of them. You can also remove grass that may be growing close to the crowns of your perennials.
Still using your digger, gently loosen up the soil around the crowns of your plants and mix in a handful of mulch and a small amount of granular slow release fertilizer.
Look at your perennials carefully. Now is the time to divide some of them if it is needed. Here are a few generalities to help you decide what you can or should divide now. If the center of the plant has died out, it needs dividing.
Some perennials can go for several years before they need dividing, but eventually you might realize that they don’t flower as well any more. That’s when they need dividing. Summer or fall blooming plants should be divided now when they first start to show green growth.
Spring blooming perennials are generally divided after they bloom, but if it is already getting quite warm where you live, this task can be postponed until late August or early September when the weather is a little cooler. In general try to do your dividing about a month before your weather gets either very hot or very cold.
Once you have replanted or given away your extra plants, it’s time to add a new layer of mulch to your garden. If you know that you have a lot of self-reseeders in your garden be careful about adding too much, but if it’s not an issue for you, add a three to four inch layer of mulch any where there is bare earth showing.
If you have ordered any plants from catalogs, they will probably be arriving soon. Don’t be surprised if they come as bare roots. This is common and now is when they should be planted. If directions came with them follow them carefully.
Inspect your plants carefully. They should be firm and healthy looking. If they are soggy, or smell bad they may have rotted and won’t make it. If there are any black, brittle parts these are probably dried up and won’t grow either. If there is just a few of these don’t worry, but in any case, the first thing you should do is rehydrate your roots in a bucket of warm water for a few hours.
Continue to keep them moist until you can plant them. The sooner you can get them in the ground the better. Now water well again and keep watering regularly until you see green starting to emerge from the ground. Now you can treat them like any other perennials in your garden.
You did it! Spring clean up is finished (for a few days). Relax for a little bit and enjoy watching your improved garden start to stretch out to the sun. Notice how this bench is waiting so patiently for spring to really begin and for you to rest on it between chores. Lovely thought isn't it?
If you have questions about what you need to do to be ready for spring, keep gardening with Julie and I'll try to answer your questions.
Monthly and Random Tips
Dividing Perennial Plants
Noxious and Invasive Weeds
Fall Garden Maintenance
Starting a Garden
More Spring Clean Up
Fall Garden Chores
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