Spring is right around the corner! Even though we have had a long winter, and it is not over yet with more snow forecasted, spring is definitely coming. I have been watching the geese flying northward, bluebirds coming back into my yard, and the smell. Oh, the smell of spring in the winds. Now that we know it is coming, we can put together our plan of action for spring.
TIP #1 Check to make sure all your tools are ready for spring work. Sharpen your shovel, hoes, pruners, loppers, and mattock. Change the filters and fuel in your gas powered blower, trimmer, shears, and chainsaw. If you use a tarp or barrel, be sure they are clean and ready. As soon as the ground is clear of snow, you can begin!
TIP #2 Use a string trimmer with a blade instead of hedge shears to save your back. I know bending over with hedge shears can really cause lower back problems, so using a string trimmer with a cutting blade can save you pain. It may be a little slower, but is can cut through small trees as well as grasses and perennials.
TIP #3 Mulch, compost, or burn your cuttings. If you are able to get into your garden with a mower, I would recommend using a mulching blade to cut down grasses and perennials-you can leave the debris on the ground as organic mulch. Otherwise, take your cuttings to the compost pile or burn them in a pile, and use the ash in the compost pile or spread around the garden.
TIP #4 Burn or trash disease-prone plant cuttings. Plants that are very prone to getting diseases (roses, phlox, monarda) should have their cuttings burned to kill the disease, or thrown out with the trash if you have no way to burn them. This will help keep diseases down in the coming year.
TIP #5 Move perennials and grasses before you chop them down. If you are moving perennials in the spring, dig them out before cutting off the old foliage, so you do not forget where they are. When you replant them, mark them with a stake or flag until the new growth appears.
TIP #6 Mulch after plants emerge. New mulching is often done in spring, but it can be difficult to know where all the plants are. Wait for your plants to emerge before applying a new layer of mulch-it takes longer but you will not risk covering any plants up.
TIP #7 Put down pre-emergent herbicides. If you have beds with weed barrier and stone, you need to apply a pre-emergent herbicide now to prevent summer annual weeds. Water in if possible.
TIP #8 Thin out hydrangea stems. Hydrangea paniculata, arborescens, and macrophylla bloom on new wood (Endless Summer on old and new wood) and can be cut down now. Arborescens and macrophylla can be sheared to 6″ tall, then break or stomp out old stems and pull out the dead to allow for new, stronger stems to grow. H. paniculata can be thinned out when pruned back (cut out crossing branches, weak or spindly stems, and any growing towards the center of the plant).
TIP #9 Fertilize perennials and bulbs. Apply an organic fertilizer to your perennials now, such as fish emulsion, alfalfa mulch, or seaweed. Apply bonemeal around your newly emerging bulbs to improve their bloom and rooting for next season.
TIP #10 Enjoy the spring! Get out with your family and friends, take walks in the woods, go to an arboretum or botanical garden, go fishing, or just lay in the sun and read a book!