Early Spring Gardening Dos and Don’ts

Friday I talked about some of the tasks that gardeners could do while the weather was still fickle–warm one day and possibly snowy or icy the next.  Today I’ll finish that task.

Right at the start you’ll see I say nothing about roses.  That’s because where I live, it’s still about a month too early to begin thinking about doing anything with roses, whether you’re planting new ones, pruning existing ones or anything else.  Since I don’t spray mine, you’ll have to get that info elsewhere.

Perennials that were left standing for winter interest can be cut back now.  I leave short “nubs” on the stem to help protect from any late freezes-and also to ensure that I don’t accidentally mulch over them or step on them when I’m working.  You can continue to leave them standing if you feel the weather is too fickle yet.  One thing you really don’t want to do is to do a lot of work in the garden and spark a lot of tender new growth, only to have it killed by later freezes.

Once it’s safe to work in the beds and the lawn, pull up any perennial weeds and those early spring weeds like chickweed.  While some birds love chickweed seeds, one plant can have as many as 25,000 seeds.  You don’t want those weeds going to seed! Remember, anything you can weed out now–particularly while the ground is moist and easy to work in–will save you many headaches later.  The old saying is “One year’s seeds, 7 years’ weeds. ”  I believe it!

Early spring is an ideal time to create new garden beds as well.  Rather than digging or tilling, which can disturb the soil structure and all the “beneficials” like earthworms and nematodes, lay down a thick layer of newspaper (print is fine, but don’t use any color supplements) or even cardboard to smother grass & weeds.  Good garden soil, compost and mulch can be placed right on top of that to create the new bed.

When thinking about purchasing plants for these new beds (or any that you might be “renovating”) make several trips to the garden center at various times of the season.  If you purchase all the plants in March or April, you’ll have a lovely, spring blooming bed that will be nothing but foliage for the rest of the season.

Even if all the plants bloom in spring, this type of  garden can be lovely for the rest of the season if you choose some newer varieties of plants with “colorful” foliage: variegated leaves, chartreuse leaves, or darker burgundy or purple leaves.  Plan accordingly.

On Friday I’ll talk about some things to remember when picking out–and planting–plants.

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