Tips for cleaning the garden this year

Managing Real Estate Broker with John L Scott #86099

With the weather warming early this year, and the excitment of the out doors. Every day I hear "Is it spring yet?"


Its ok with your evergreens, dogwood, spirea, maples, deutzia, mock orange, elderberry and buddleia. Its best todo your roses in stages, starting by removing dead or diseased wood and large old canes right down to the ground. To avoid impenetrable thickets later in the year, its best to also thin shrub roses and ground cover roses before they leaf out. In mid-March, start pruning the roses with careful attention to detail and begin fertilizing program.

Some vines like clematis and honeysuckle also need early attention. Here's where you need to do some thinking. If your clematis flowers early (with the tulips), it is one that flowers on old wood. Wait to prune it until after it flowers; then give it a good trim so it can grow lots of new shoots for next year's flowers, but don't do a severe pruning. If your clematis flowers in mid-June or later - these are usually the large-flowered varieties - you can prune it back to within a pair of good, strong buds from the base. If you haven't done your pruning yet, do it now!

All hybrids, which have the VERY largest flowers. These need more careful pruning because they need the dead wood removed while leaving the short young laterals made in the previous season. Trace each shoot back to a pair of strong, juicy-looking buds and make your cut just above them.

You will need to know your plant. If you have saved the tag, this will provide pruning requirements.

If you are unsure, just don't prune for a year and observe when the plant blooms and how it grows. Then make a note in your garden journal so that you can look it up next year in late winter.

Honeysuckle is a breeze - just cut old, straggly plants down to the ground (now), and they will regrow rapidly.

Newer plants should be thinned after blooming.

Early spring priorities. Clear your garden of all dead plant matter. Weed, weed, weed and edge your beds. Fertilize and mulch. That seems pretty simple, doesn't it?

Again, there is always more to learn about the simplest things in the garden. Nature has uses for everything if we step back and think about it.

When the leaves fall in the autumn, leave lots of them on perennial beds for protection, although remove them from lawn areas. As you clear them off in the spring, carefully rake them away from the crown of the plant, but leave them in between plants until later in the spring, usually until you turn on the irrigation water. The leaves keep the beds from drying out, and, more importantly, the soil organisms are very active chomping up those old leaves.

You may have noticed little clumps that are sticking down into the dirt. This is food for the worms that are enriching the soil. Let them do their work for a while. When you do remove the old leaves, spread a mulch of compost and well-rotted manure from your compost bins.

Remember, when you are clearing out the dead leaves, cutting down the withered stalks of chrysanthemums, echinacea, daisies, rudbeckia, gallardia, grasses and other perennials you have left through the winter to feed the birds, pile them up, run the lawn mower over them and add them to your compost bin.

One handy way to deal with larger ornamental grasses that need to be cut back close to the ground is to tie a sturdy cord around the whole plant just above where you want to cut. Use your shears, clippers (or chain saw) and cut just below the cord. Then you have a neat bundle to chop up and compost with no mess.

Some of the evergreen perennials, including hellebores, have tattered, faded old leaves lying on the ground while the new buds and leaves are emerging now. Cut back these old leaves to the ground and clean the plant. Now is the time to fertilize around the crown of cleaned perennials.

If you are lucky enough to have clumps of the beautiful shade plant epimedium, shear these to the ground now before the new flowers poke up and get hidden by the old leaves. New leaves will follow the flowers.

Cut back to the ground brown and dried fern fronds before the new fiddle heads begin to uncurl. If you get them early, you won't risk damaging the new fronds. More for the compost.

Just talking about this makes me excited to go outside and get started having fun in the garden. Let's not wait any longer, get out and enjoy the spring!

Have a great year,

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