Garden Spring Cleaning – Tips from Pat

Most avid gardeners are tempted to be out in their garden the first warm day in spring. There’s no harm in cleaning up fallen branches and debris and much easier to cut back plants before the old growth gets tangled up in new growth.

Flower Garden Spring Clean-Up

The first task is removing any dead annual plants that remained over winter. These will not return and any self-seeders will already have done their job.

If you didn’t prune back your perennials last fall, they’re probably looking unattractive as spring sets in. Many perennials prefer to be left standing throughout the winter, for extra protection. If you did leave your perennials standing last fall, once you start to see the new growth at the base of the plants, it’s safe to begin pruning them to ground level.

Woody Perennial Flowers and & Plants

Some shrub plants such as Artemisia and lavender need to be cut back each spring, because they only bloom on new branches. The spring pruning limits winter damage and encourages the plant to start sending out new branches. It is best to wait until danger of a hard frost 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 areas or new growth at the base of the plants.

Ornamental Grasses

If you left your ornamental grasses 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 from the ground. They will come up when they are ready.


Spring rose care depends on the climate. Roses grown is warm climates where they never go dormant, will benefit from a good pruning and the removal of the majority of leaves, to shock the rose into thinking it was dormant and needs to wake up and start growing again.  Where roses do go dormant, spring care should begin just as the leaf buds begin to plump up.

Trees and Shrubs

Most spring blooming trees and shrubs set their flower buds in summer or fall of last year.  Pruning them in spring, before they’ve bloomed, would mean pruning off this year’s flowers.


Most evergreens should require little or no spring care other than some tidying up.  Spring is a good time to fertilize evergreens because they are actively growing at this time. If the soil is healthy and rich, you should only need to feed them every other year with a well-balanced food, labeled especially for evergreens.

Weeding and Composting

Early spring is the best time to take action against weeds with some vigorous weeding. Damp soil makes it much easier to pull young weed seedlings. Don’t try to compost weeds as they will come back to haunt you. Other garden debris can go into your compost pile. Dispose of any plant material that shows signs of disease.

Soil and Fertilizer

It’s always wise to test the soil before adding things to it. Most plants enjoy a good feeding in the spring, when they’re having their initial growth spurt. If your soil is rich and healthy, all you should need to do in spring is to add a little top dressing with compost, manure or a complete, slow release organic fertilizer.

Dividing and Transplanting

Spring is the ideal time for dividing and transplanting. Try to do this as soon as possible after the plants emerge. It’s surprising how quickly plants recover from this abuse if you transplant them early, when the weather is still mild and they’re ready to grow.

Staking Plants

This is one of the most tedious gardening tasks. The sooner you stake, the easier it is on the plants. The stakes may be unattractive initially, but it is better to allow the plants to grow onto the stakes rather than trying to squeeze the plants into them later.

Mulching and Edging

Mulch does many good things for the garden: conserves water, cools plant roots, feeds the soil and smothers weeds. Every garden deserves a layer of mulch.  Wait until the soil warms up and dries a bit before replenishing mulch. Keep it away from the stems and crowns of the plants.

The finishing touch in the spring is edging. A crisp edge makes a garden bed look polished. It also prevents the lawn from crawling into your flower bed and creating tedious work.


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