The snow is receding, the ice is melting, and your garden is starting to grow. If there are winter leftovers in the garden, it’s time to get organized for a late winter garden cleanup. Before it’s truly spring, what are the essential steps of a garden facelift?
Scan Your Yard
Before you begin on the garden plants, take a look at your garden structures. Did the shed survive the winter unscathed, or does its siding need repair? How about your fence? Look at the places where the outside and the inside interact as well. Examine your roofing for holes or damaged shingles. Clean your gutters, add gutter covers, or look into roof and gutter replacement if necessary.
Look Under Your Feet
When you’re investigating your garden structures, don’t forget to look under your feet. Garden pathways can take a beating over the winter months. You may need to add more gravel to paths or rake them to corral the gravel that’s escaped. You could find that a concrete or asphalt pathway has developed a crack due to seeping water and expanding ice over the winter. Make it easy to get around your garden by repairing your pathways.
Prune. Then Prune Some More
The end of winter can be a pleasant time to get into the garden again and it’s also a key time to complete pruning. Most plants need to be pruned while they’re dormant, and pruning before spring begins can help you support the overall good health of a tree. As you walk around your garden, note which plants should be pruned. Open up the canopy, take out dead wood, and give your plants a smaller and more pleasant shape before spring comes.
Plant Your Perennials
While it may be too chilly to plant annuals yet, fall and winter are the best times to plant perennials. Planting them during the wetter season when they are dormant allows them to begin to establish a root system before they send out leaves and flowers.
Leaf Me Alone
If you have a layer of mulch on the garden and you’ve had a winter that involved some snow, ice, and rain, it’s probably fairly well decomposed. Winter mulch can turn into lovely soil for the spring months. If you have large piles of debris or leaves that are making it hard for perennial bulbs like crocuses to poke through, you can move a little of it aside to allow for the planting and growth of smaller plants and annuals. These partially-decomposed leaves are a big asset to your garden, though, so keep them in place when you can.
Remove Undesired Debris
While leaves on your garden beds perform the important function of soil-building, you don’t really need these leaves in your pool, pond, or clogging your gutters. If you experienced a lot of winter storms, there may be a lot of branches around the garden as well. Collect debris that can lead to future landscaping problems or that’s unwanted, but leave some of the smaller debris in the garden if you can. For example, the hollow tubes of sunchoke or foxglove are homes for overwintering insects that perform pest control and feed the birds that visit your garden. Be mindful about moving them.
Observe Your Drainage
As you look at your garden during the winter melt or the early spring rains, observe the drainage patters around your home and garden. Is there a lot of landscape erosion in a particular area? Are there large muddy areas or puddles that never seem to drain? If the ground is still frozen, you may not be able to adjust drainage patterns by moving soil in the garden, but these observations will help you better your drainage so that there will be less cleanup next year.
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