Getting the Garden Ready for Spring

spring clean

Beryl Harris

The first day of spring is now passed – the sun is bright and warm(ish). We are all desperate to get out into the garden and start gardening but let’s take a look at a few steps that will make our lives easier.

We take our wonderful tools for granted - our pruners, clippers, loppers, hoes and rakes. If they have dirty blades and dull edges, we negate their usefulness and make things a little more difficult for ourselves. Starting with a damp cloth, wipe off any dirt that you forgot last year. Sand off any rust spots with either sandpaper or steel wool. Wipe the blades with a soft oil-soaked cloth. Any oil will do. Linseed oil makes wooden handles look like new. Tighten any bolts and screws that are loose and sharpen anything that needs it.

Deciduous trees and shrubs have been "sleeping" all winter and now they are awakening. This is an ideal time to groom them, so get busy before the leaves pop out. Use those newly sharpened clippers and loppers to cut out all the dead, diseased and damaged branches, as well as any suckers (water shoots) at the base of the plant. Remove any branches that spoil the appearance and thin out branches that are crossing each other or are growing too densely. It does make the garden look so much better when all those dead and messy branches are removed.

You should have lots of mulch on your tender plants. At this time of year we get swings in the weather - warm one day and cold the next, so exercise some patience before running out to pull off the mulch. We have a way to go yet. When you do start, remove it very slowly, using your hands rather than a hoe or rake. It is amazing how much damage we can do to young tender sprouting plants. My leaf blower works well and does no harm.

Once you have removed the mulch layer, its time to use your clippers. Look where you are walking and tread very lightly, especially if the ground is still a little frozen or wet. We do not want to compact the soil. Cut all dead stalks to the ground, especially the grasses. I am sure that your heart will be gladdened to see fresh young shoots starting to grow. Another reason to do it now is to get a jump-start before you have a tangled mess of old and new stalks growing together.

Soon it will be a good time to divide and move perennials. It is easiest to do this before the leaves start to grow.

Unlike greened up and growing plants, bare-rooted ones can be planted early in the season because they are dormant. Transplant trauma is not an issue, so plant them in cool soil and let them come out of dormancy at a natural, gradual rate as the growing season progresses. When they arrive do not be alarmed, you may think that you have been sent dead plants. Not so! Last year’s growth has been clipped off and very soon you will see this year’s growth. However, do check them over carefully removing any dead, blackened, or wiry roots. Soak the roots for a few hours in lukewarm water – overnight is even better. The roots will plump up. Plant them out as soon as the soil is workable, neither semi-frozen nor soggy. Although these bare roots will be small, they will grow so make sure that you leave them sufficient room.

I hope that this will help you to get through the next few. Once the summer is here, we will not have a moment’s peace until the fall, so enjoy your gardening books and planning what plants you are going to buy. You can even sit outside on balmy days with your coffee and a book, about gardening of course. Maybe you could clean off that snow shovel and put it away until next winter where you can put your hands on it when next needed – I still cannot find my ice chopper.