Early Spring Cleaning in the Flower Garden

March 27, 2016

While we all wait (rather impatiently I might add) for signs of Spring, that first warm sunny day reassures us that LIFE IS GOOD! Now is the time to clean up the garden. While there is no harm in cleaning up fallen branches and debris, wait until the soil is no longer wet enough to form a ball in your hand, before walking on it and compacting it. But don't wait too long to start your clean up. It's much easier to cut plants back before the old growth gets tangled up in the new growth.

Spring Garden Chores
The first task is removing and composting any dead annual plants that remained over winter. These will not return and any self-seeders will already have done their job. Most perennials probably look completely ragged by now. They actually prefer to be left standing throughout the winter, for extra protection. But by definition, herbaceous perennials will die back to the ground during winter. If you did leave your perennials standing last fall, once you start to see new growth at the base of the plants, it's safe to begin removing winter mulch and pruning them down to ground level.

Herbaceous Perennials
Some shrubby plants with woody stems (artemisia ,butterfly bush, caryopteris, lavender, santolina, russian sage...) need to be cut back each spring, because they only bloom on new branches. These are pruned in the spring, to limit winter damage and to encourage the plant to start sending out those new flowering branches. It's best to wait until danger of a hard frost or late freeze is past. Most of these woody perennials will let you know when it's time to prune them by showing signs of opening buds on the lower stem portions or new growth at the base of the plants.

Semi-Evergreen Perennials
Depending on where you are gardening, some perennial plants will never quite go dormant, but they may still need tidying up. Plants like Epimedium, Hellebores,Coral Bells, Acorus grass and bearded Iris retain their leaves all winter. Spring is the time to trim back the tattered foliage and encourage new growth to come in.

Ornamental Grasses
If you left your ornamental grasses up for winter interest, you can cut them back as soon as you can get to them. You don't need to wait for new growth. Cut grasses to within a few inches of the ground. They'll come back up when they're ready. An easy way to cut back grasses is to tie the old brown stalks together with a bungee cord or paper tape, cut or saw off at the base of the old fronds, and carry off the “bundle”. Much easier than trying to scoop up the scattered fronds!

  • Freeze and thaw cycles over the winter may given some of your plants the heave-ho. Replant any perennials that the frost has heaved out of the ground as soon as you can.
  • Weeds start growing vigorously early, so when you spot them, go to it. Getting on top of the weeding now means a lot less work later. Weeds are easier to pull out while their roots are still shallow in early spring.
  • April and August are an ideal time to apply organic fertilizers to your gardens. Come visit the Mustard Seed Market for all your organic soil needs.
  • Wait till the ground warms up and perennials are beginning to swell and grow before re-mulching.
Pruning Archive
« Back to Pruning

call (828) 295-4585