The most exciting time of the year is spring. Snow melts away and we rush out to see what survived. We all want to know if our garden made it through the winter. Do we have a healthy spring garden? I know how anxious we are to get into the garden, uncover plants, and start gardening again. But don’t get too carried away. In the first weeks of spring in the garden, patience is a virtue.
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When To Clean-up
In order to have a healthy spring garden it’s important to pay attention to both temperature and ground moisture when cleaning-up your garden in the spring. Some tasks are best done when the ground is frozen, others once the over night temperatures are above 0C most nights.
I know you’re eager to get into the garden and there’s plenty to do immediately after the snow melts. Even while the ground’s still frozen.
Rain barrels that were put away for winter can be placed back out, flipped upright, spouts closed and ready to collect water for your garden again. Inspect your home and garden for damage. When the ground’s still frozen it’s a perfect time to fix damage and take down Christmas decorations.
If you protected tender plants with mulch or other organic matter. This is the time to clear the mulch away.
I cover my tender/annual herbs with wood shavings. I protect my tender roses with wood shavings and rose hutches. But if the wood shavings get wet during the thaw, they can damage plants.
Remove wood shavings or other organic mater from around the canes, trunk, or main stems of any of your plants. These plants still need extra protection until the weather has fully warmed up. In the spring, like in the fall, cover plants in the evening to protect them from below freezing temperatures.
In order to keep them healthy, harden them off the way you do your seedlings. Uncover them for short periods of time, so they are neither too hot nor too cold.
The mulch in your garden serves as protection for ladybugs until the weather is warm enough for them to overnight without protection. If you don’t have mulch in your garden, then leave some organic matter behind until the over night temperatures stay above freezing.
Spring in the zone 3b or zone 4 garden doesn’t always follow the rules. Keep the shifting weather in mind when planning these tasks.
1. Inspect & Prune Trees
When the ground is still frozen and your trees haven’t budded yet, this is the perfect time to examine them. Watch for tent caterpillar eggs (black ring of eggs around a small branch), other pests, and tree damage. Prune trees that need it. C trees are best pruned late in summer or in fall. Check your individual tree requirements if you’re unsure.
2. Remove Last Year’s Flowers
If you didn’t remove your annuals at the end of last season, then this is the time to do so. Clear out the old plants, compost them, and make room for the next season’s plants.
Many perennials benefit from being left over winter. When spring arrives it’s time to cut them back and make way for new growth. Evergreen perennials may have winter damage, I suggest waiting until late spring before trimming them back, I find they often revive on their own.
2. Cut Back Woody Perennials
Certain perennials bloom or bear fruit on either new growth or 2nd year growth. Spring is a great time to cut back the old growth that won’t bear flowers or fruit anymore.
3. Cut Ornamental Grasses
If you left your ornamental grasses over winter, then in spring cut them back to about 3cm tall (about an inch). Don’t worry, you don’t need to be precise!
Once the weather is warm enough and your rose has woken up, then it’s time to give it spring care.
Cut any winter die off from your roses and remove old leaves. Remove the oldest canes and open up the centre of dense bushes. Tie up climbing rose canes that need support and fertilize them.
5. Evergreen Care
Once new growth begins, remove any winter damaged branches that died. Fertilize and water to help them recover. Mulch helps conserve moisture and prevent weeds that might compete with the evergreen while it recovers.
Weeding season beings in spring. Clear weeds from your beds as you prepare for new plants. It’s easier to weed when you have more access to your beds before your plants fill in.
7. Test Your Soil
Spring is the perfect time to test your soil and amend it as needed. Preparing your garden beds now provides the best start to the coming growing season. Compost is a great addition to your garden beds in the spring.
8. Divide & Transplant
Perennials often need divided every 3-5 years depending on the specific plant. The cool weather of spring and fall are the best times to divide them. Once the weather is warm enough for the soil to be thawed, workable, and not soggy, then you can move your plants.
9. Stake Plants
Placing stakes in the ground when the ground thaws and plants are just crowning is the easiest time to provide support without disturbing or damaging them. As they grow, guide them into the stake holes rather than fighting to get them in once they’re taller than the support ring.
As soon as the ground has thawed, can clean up your garden edging and add a layer of mulch. If you already have mulch in your garden, you won’t need as much as when you first placed it. Over the course of a growing season some will get turned into the soil, washed or blown away, and some areas of your garden will need a top up. Mulch is a great way to keep your garden looking tidy, conserve water, keep weeds at bay, and also provide long term health benefits to your garden ecosystem.
The best way to keep a healthy garden is to spend time in it and notice changes