The first warm days of spring draw me outside to clean up the yard. As I do so, I am constantly looking for little sprouts of all the bulbs I planted last fall. If you don’t have any bulbs planted, make a mental note to do so next year. The rewards of a fall planting are so worth it! I cleaned up most of our perennials last fall which makes spring clean-up a breeze. Any perennials I left for winter interest need cut down to the ground. If you see some green on the existing mostly-dead branch, it is okay to leave some of it standing, but no more than 6” for perennials.
Next are the ornamental grasses. These need cut low to the ground to encourage the new growth. If you see some green leaves mixed in with the brown, don’t worry about cutting them off because they will grow back just like your lawn does. If your grass is 5-10 years old it is a good time to divide the clump. The easiest way is to simply take a spade to the center of the clump and dig out half or two thirds. This can be replanted elsewhere or discarded in your compost bin that you made after reading the article on Composting.
Shrubs can be a little more tricky. Think back to what time of year your shrub bloomed. If it bloomed before July 4, wait to prune until after it has bloomed this year. These are the shrubs that bloom on last year’s growth. When you prune, you will be cutting off many of the flower buds. On the other hand, if it blooms in the summer or fall (after July 4), go ahead and prune now. These plants bloom on an growth that is new this spring and early summer. By cutting it back now, you will encourage bushier growth which will have more flowers. Look for branches that are rubbing against the house and cut 6-12 inches away from the building. You can easily cut the top third of any shrubs and not harm the plant at all. Do this in cases where you wish to contain the growth such as in front of a window. Look for dead or diseased branches and trim those back. Don’t put the diseased branches in your compost pile. Bring them off site someplace to prevent spread of the disease.
A word of caution when pruning junipers; junipers have what is called a ‘dead zone’. This is the area that looks dead and where there are no live buds. If you cut into the dead zone, it will not grow back. You can prune the tips of junipers, but make sure there is plenty of green growth in the area you are cutting.
Trees are best pruned in winter. If you prune them in the spring, they will bleed at the wound. This bleeding is because their sap is actively flowing as the tree is taking up water and nutrients from the soil. If you have to, you can prune trees now, but it is better to do so in the winter.
That about covers it. Please add a comment below if you have any plants or areas that you want more information about spring clean-up.