Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ready for Spring?

On a recent warm day about a week ago, we were outside pruning all the coneflowers, aster, and roses we'd left for the birds to munch on. We left our butterfly bush intact, since it's been such a great "hiding place" for the chickadees, titmice, finches, and cardinals who visit our feeder. It's also right outside our window, allowing us to get an up-close view of our feathered friends. Now we just need another warm winter break to apply an extra layer of mulch, and we'll be all set for April. Here's a nice little run-down of garden chores from White Flower Farm.

Early Spring Checklist of Garden Chores

Many of us can by no means get out in our gardens right now, but for those of you in warmer parts of the country, there are plenty of gardening activities to perform in early spring. Getting some routine chores out of the way will minimize delays when the weather is right for digging and planting.

1. Look around your yard for damage to trees and shrubs that may have occurred over winter. Remove broken branches with clean cuts. Look for perennials that have heaved up out of the ground as a result of alternate freezing and thawing of the soil. Replant these as soon as possible. If the soil is still frozen, protect the exposed roots by covering them with mulch until they can be replanted.

2. Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses before new growth begins, and remove old leaves and other debris from beds to minimize diseases. Some perennials may have little left to cut back after winter, but those such as Rudbeckia and Echinacea that you left to help feed birds over winter can now be cut back to the ground. Sedums often remain attractive in winter, but should be cut back now. Some perennials such asDianthus and Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) retain their leaves throughout winter, but will benefit from a selective spring "clean-up."

3. Examine your gardening tools. Clean blades, remove rust, and coat any metal lightly with mineral oil to prevent further rust. Sharpen blades that need it. Rub linseed oil into wooden handles. Replace tools that are damaged beyond repair. Check tires of garden carts and wheelbarrows. Check hoses for leaks.

4. Clean fountains, birdbaths, and ponds. Bring rain barrels out of storage, clean them and set them up to collect spring rains.

5. Check your store of garden supplies: fertilizer, compost, gloves, potting soil, and containers. Replenish those that are in short supply.

6. Collect a soil sample from each of your gardens and have them tested. Most states have a soil test lab that will provide recommendations at no or minimal cost. Private laboratories also provide soil testing.

7. If you are planning a new garden, be sure to purchase the necessary amendments to prepare your soil. Since perennials may remain in the same spot for many years, make sure your soil is in good shape prior to planting. Vegetable gardens and annual beds benefit from annual additions of organic matter.

8. Look through gardening books and magazines for ideas to use in your garden. Browse through our catalogue for plants that will fill out your current beds with just the right touch or that will make stunning container plantings for your entrance or patio. If you are starting a new bed from scratch, make a list of the plants you want to include and select the varieties that best suit your needs. Order early to assure best selection.

5 comments:

  1. I too am a Master Gardener and your tips and activities are good choices. WFF does have great tips. My property is small, but having Cornell Cooperative Extension and my best friend's nursery farm for my gardening playground and use, I always have more chores than I can realistically handle. I bet I have not picked up a gardening book in ten years, and I do hundreds of soil samples yearly. I have all those cleaning chores in my city garden, birdbath, fountain and grasses included. Your list just reminded me of a few more things to attend to.

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  2. Is it early spring yet? At my house we are knee deep in winter and I'm in N. Va, too!! I wait until much later in the winter/early spring to cut back my perennials. Our Februarues are too unpredictable!

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  3. Hi Casa Mariposa,
    Thanks for your note. I love that Feb. is unpredictable. It means we may get a warm day once in awhile! The Virginia Cooperative Extension publishes this pruning guide for perennials in our area. Check to see what's ok to prune, or not, in February:
    http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-462/430-462.html

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  4. Gardenwalkgardentalk, thanks for commiserating. I love your tree identification series! I can see I have much to learn from you and look forward to the day when I can confidently say: "I haven't picked up a gardening book in ten years." (though I think I would still miss all the pretty pictures).

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  5. There's still snow here so I am waiting for early spring to start working in my garden which will be not very soon.

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