Here is what you will find me doing in my garden in early spring: Spring weather varies timing widely, so use this as a guide, but follow your instincts to set a gardening schedule that works best for you and your garden.
EARLY SPRING (March)
Cut any ornamental grasses: In early March take down any large ornamental grasses that were left for winter drama. With a pruning saw or strong hand and pruners take down grasses to 10-12″.
Pruning: Any late summer or fall blooming shrubs can be cut back to 8-10″ if you so desired. This encourages fresh new growth and keeps their size under control. Some shrubs I commonly prune are Hydrangea “Annabelle” and Callicarpa. Clematis viticella species and hybrids should be cut back to 2 buds. Roses can be pruned as the buds begin to swell. Leave the rugosa rose be, but on the rest of the shrub roses I take the main shoots down to an outward facing bud usually around 12-18″. For the climbing roses, all the main canes are left to grow and be trained, but note side shoots are taken to 2 buds.
Clean up: Maintaining your garden should be a year-round delight. I find myself in the garden no matter what time of year it is but in early March I can start removing and replacing any plants and plan my spring and summer projects in the garden.
Fertilizing: I use a 10-10-10 fertilizer before mulch and edge the gardens. At this time the plants are beginning to be active and can use the food. I feed my shrubs, conifer, and mixed borders. If you’re not sure if you need to fertilize, this would be a great time for soil testing.
Perennial garden clean up: Winter can be very messy for a perennial garden. Rake old leaves and clean up old foliage. Remove older leaves as the fresh new growth begin from evergreen perennials. Mulch and edge the gardens yearly. If you plan on feeding the garden do it before you put any mulch down.
Seeds: Plant sweet peas and other cool season annuals around St. Patrick’s Day and hope for the luck of the Irish.
Lawn: Spring and fall are the best time to plant. Seed germinates best when temperatures are consistently 60 to 80 degrees. Once the soil temperatures warm up this is the ideal time to seed (freezing temperatures will not harm the seed or young seedlings, but will delay emergence by one to several weeks) spring planting generally results in better establishment than late spring. Seed will not germinate well once temperatures are consistently above 80 degrees.
(1) Loosen Soil
(2) Overseeding — mow grass closely, then loosen top inch of soil in bare and thin areas.
(3) New lawn seeding- loosen top 2 to 3 inches of soil. For the best results, spread an inch of grass seed and rake to smooth out heavy areas.
(4) Keep the top inch of soil damp by watering twice daily until all seedlings are up.
Continue to water once or twice a day until the lawn is fully established generally taking 6 to 8 weeks.
Dividing: This is a great time to divide many perennials, such as Hosta and Hemerocallis as they are emerging in your garden. If you find you have too much of one thing give to your friends or neighbors. Your garden can give to others and continue to provide joy in new locations.
Tipping allowed: Once all the shrubs have leafed out, look for winter tip kill. I prune off just the dead wood as I spot it.
For staking sake: Stake perennials before they really need it. Some that I get an early start with are my peonies, sedum, phlox, and delphiniums. This will help their growth and protect them from rain damage.
LATE SPRING (May/June)
Cut back bulb foliage: Once daffodils and tulip foliage begin to turn yellow and flop, I cut them down. With my daffodils, I braid them or fold them over twice and rubber band them to make them more visually appealing. Once late May and early June arrives, I cut them down completely. You never want to cut them before because the bulbs are needing nutrients from the sun for the next year’s blooming season.
Pruning: Prune spring flowering shrubs that need it right after bloom. Shrubs should have the spent flowers deadheaded. Deadhead Azalea and Rhododendron after flowers are spent. This may be as late as June or July.
I hope my tips help you with your garden and provides you with specific suggestions that can help you start early in your garden. For more information, refer to your local library or garden centers. Learning is important and knowing the right time to do things is key. Happy gardening!
And there you have it.