Dairy May 2007 - Spring Clean-up

Every spring I create a huge garden TO DO list. I know what I should do, but sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, or knee problems get in the way or just plain laziness gives me an excuse to skip over these important tasks. But a special occasion such as a garden tour, special birthday or wedding is an extra inspiration to get out there and get going!
Wedding – did I say wedding??? Well, that’s my big inspiration this spring! My oldest son Alex is getting married to his beautiful girlfriend Kim.

Now, it’s not a garden wedding, but there will be a bridal shower and other family occasions related to the wedding that make me want my garden to look extra good this year. So we definitely have to do a very through spring clean-up.
My Dad (my very generous, constant helper) was out with me today in gorgeous 23 degree weather. We raked, we weeded, we pruned, we cut back and then we sat and admired our work. We got the front done and approximately half of the back. The weather promises to be just as sunny and warm tomorrow so we left all our tools on the deck to continue tomorrow.
Wedding or no wedding - what should you do in the spring? Here are some common tasks that always pay off:
Weeding: When the earth is soft enough to dig into, get rid of those weeds that made you crazy last summer. I loved Carol Wallace’s article about spring clean-up in which she described finding weeds “that grow like bamboo or those that have taproots that go to Australia!” She’s right – if you can get them first thing in the spring, perhaps they won’t spread as quickly or grow to the size of prize sunflowers! She also mentions to be careful before pulling “unknowns” – are they weeds or the new plants that you put in last fall? Leave them until you know for sure! (Sometimes it’s easy to tell – if they grow 6” a day, they’re probably weeds!!)
Cleaning Up: If you are not the type to cut down perennials in the fall, do it now! Overwintered foliage is usually yucky, soft and mushy. Pull it up and out and let the new growth get some air and sunshine. Ornamental grasses (like Miscanthus) can be cut down to the ground or you can just pull the yellow brittle sticks out (like in Blue Oat Grass), leaving room for this year’s growth to come in.
Dig Back In: New plants often heave out of the ground after a hot/cold/hot/cold spring. Dig a deeper hole and gently put the plant back into the earth. Tuck the roots in, cover with extra dirt and tamp down firmly.
Pruning: Many shrubs benefit from severe pruning (being cut right down to the ground) or light pruning (cutting out select branches). I cut my ‘Anthony Waterer’ Spirea down to 2” and plan to do the same tomorrow to the Weigela.

We will also need to cut the brown branches out of the Red Twig Dogwood and get the dead branches out of the shrub, explorer and rugosa roses (ouch- watch for thorns!!)
Raking: GENTLY rake out leaves and debris that fell into garden beds, being extra careful not to damage new growth. This gets rid of areas for slugs and snails to breed as well as allows the earth to warm in the sunshine. Plus it looks neater too.
I must complain about one thing, though – RABBITS!!! They have taken over the neighborhood. On evening walks, there’s at least one on every front lawn we pass. They’ve chewed my shrubs, trees, tulips and I’m pretty worried about what annuals to put in. I don’t want to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for floppy-eared pests! Please send me any suggestions you have for proven rabbit resistant plants.
Anyway – back to Spring Clean-up. Walking through the garden reminds me that laziness and shortcuts don’t pay off! When experts tell you to put clay pots away over the winter – do it! Otherwise (uh-oh) suffer the consequences:

Next weekend it’s time for edging, transplanting and then the piece de resistance: Sheep Manure!!!