Continue preparing seed beds for new plantings. Break the soil down to a roughly level surface, so that it can dry out during sunny or windy weather. This will help you to create a fine surface, or tilth, when the seedbed is raked level.
1. Spring Clean Up
If you are like me, you do a great deal of clean up in the fall in anticipation of all the work ahead in the spring (okay…the truth is I have a great gardening team). But if you are like many home gardeners (without gardening machines like my husband and TGC crew to help) your energy gets diverted to other things in the fall and the clean up is left to spring. Cleaning up leaves and debris is an important task in keeping the garden free of pathogens, mold, and rot that you don’t want in your garden. Now this “rot” and “mold” is a natural function of decomposition, but you want it in your compost pile not your managed garden bed. So if you haven’t cleaned up from fall or even the winter, time to get to it.
2. Maintain Edges
Edging the garden bed is a very important task for me. I like crisp lines in the garden, but I don’t like artificial or even stone edging in my beds. By using an edging tool to cut the grass edge each spring you keep the garden and lawn neatly in their place. This is a task that can be done later in the season (summer or fall), but it should be done once a year to avoid the creep of turf grasses in to the garden zone.
3. Shrub Pruning
The springtime is the right time to prune some shrubs and the wrong time to prune others. First, look through your garden to see if there is any damage from the winter. Any broken, bent, twisted or otherwise undermined branching should be pruned now regardless of the plant type. A clean cut is easier for the plant to heal from as it emerges from dormancy than a tear. Second, select your shrubs that set buds on new wood and prune those. Top on this list is Spirea japonica. The vigorous grower can be pruned hard in the spring for a shorter fuller plant with lots of spring flowers. Hydrangea like Endless Summer and Annabelle are also good shrubs to prune now. As soon as the threat of hard frost is gone, it will be time to prune butterfly bush and caryopteris – look for the new growth to have emerged on these tender shrubs before pruning. Third, don’t forget rose pruning in this task. If you have shrub roses, climbing roses, and rambling roses now is the time to prune. Again, be sure the threat of hard frost is over, but do prune the roses down by removing one quarter to one third of the plant. Prune out any dead canes too. This will make for a much happier rose as it warms up.
4. Perennial Clean Up
Any perennial foliage not cut off and cleaned up in the fall needs to be cleaned up now. I decided to leave all the perennial foliage up in my pollinator garden this year and was so sad to see that rather than just providing a food source for the birds, I also provided a feeding frenzy buffet for the voles that over wintered in my yard. So I am cleaning up foliage and damaged roots that have been dug up. As much as I liked the idea of leaving plants up, I will be more selective next year and leave only the sturdy plant seed heads for the birds – Rudbeckia, Sedum, and Astilbe among them.
5. Dividing Perennials
While you might feel too tired after all this to even think about dividing, I am going to encourage you to make a list of plants that need it. How do you know? If you see crowding now…it will be unbearable in the summer. Any perennials that are encroaching on one another or that look like they have a bald spot in the center need dividing. Just choose the worst offenders in this category to tackle now. Plants that I often see needing dividing in this time of year are daylilies, irises, hostas, and grasses. Mark the clumps with flags to remind you of this important task. Divide the biggest clumps now. Maybe save the next set for a fall divide to get a jump on next spring.