It’s hard to believe that spring is almost here — the view outside my window right now is pretty grim. However, I know that soon the sky will brighten, buds will be bursting and a new season for gardening will be upon us.
To get you ready, here’s a spring checklist to prepare for the months ahead.
Clean up — Remove all debris from your beds and cut down any perennials that were left up over the winter. Then break up and rake out the old mulch.
Thin out — Divide any perennials that you didn’t tend to last fall. Dig up clumps that have gotten too big, didn’t thrive last season or have sprung up in areas where they are not wanted. You can either replant the divisions or donate to friends.
Amend — It’s a good idea to amend the soil in your beds every year. Organic matter such as manure or compost, generously worked in, enriches the soil and provides an optimum environment for both new and existing plants.
Mulch — Mulch offers numerous benefits to your garden during the growing season. Applied in a layer 2-4" thick, mulch:
• regulates the soil temperature and retains moisture
• suppresses weeds
• prevents "splash up" of soil onto foliage
• provides a neat and finished appearance to the garden
• adds organic matter to the garden as it decomposes
Be careful not to mound the mulch up against tree trunks or plant crowns (which can encourage rot and infestation), and avoid the foundation of your house (where mulch can invite termites).
Prune — Late-season plants such as Sedum "Autumn Joy," Chrysanthemum and Joe-pye weed spend most of the summer growing, and by fall have often gotten too tall and require staking. In addition, they tend to produce only a few blooms atop their too-tall stalks, resulting in a somewhat ungainly appearance. By cutting back the entire plant by one half to one third in the spring, the plant will branch out and develop more (if somewhat smaller) flowers. In addition, the plant will be sturdier, with a more attractive shape that will be less likely to flop and need staking.
Some summer-blooming shrubs can also be pruned now, to promote more vigorous growth and increased blooms. Shrubs such as Butterfly bush (Buddleia), Blue-mist shrub (Caryopteris), Smokebush (Cotinus) and some Hydrangeas will benefit from being cut back now. Books and the internet provide excellent information on the specific pruning needs of each plant.
Plant — Spring is a great time to start planting perennials. The nurseries are not yet swamped and once the perennials are out on display, they’re ready to plant. The cooler weather minimizes transplant shock and gives new plants time to establish before summer sets in. You can also plant cold-tolerant annuals such as Pansies, Johnny jump-ups and Alyssums. They’ll provide an instant burst of color to your garden, as well as a lift to your spirits.
Enjoy your garden!
Sheri Silver owns fiori garden design in Irvington — she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.fiorigarden.com.