The weather is warm and you’re feeling energetic. Leave those dirty windows for one more day and spend some time cleaning out the garden.
Many gardeners leave the stalks, leaves and plant material over winter to provide insulation, food for birds and visual interest. If you are one of those, the task of spring cleaning in the garden may be a little more involved.
Every thing will need to be cut down, cleaned up and either composted, hauled away or burnt. Use clean pruners for the job.
Remember to only compost healthy, weed free plants. Any weeds or diseased flowers and leaves should be thrown away. If you have the proper permit and a fire pit, burning all of this material is an efficient way to clean up.
Remove any winter mulch gently, as there may be tender shoots underneath. Pull back the mulch and allow the sun to warm the soil up quicker.
If last year’s perennial grasses and tall flowers have lain on the garden or against the house, you may find a lot of life under them. Rabbits, chipmunks and other little mammals like to make a home in these conditions. You might also come across a surprisingly large population of snails. All of these creatures should be encouraged to move elsewhere.
If you worked hard last fall to cut down the plants and clean up, there won’t be quite as much work to do this spring. Clean up stray leaves left in the garden and remove any winter mulch. If you covered sensitive plants like roses with straw, it’s time to take it off.
You may want to start cultivating the soil already, but don’t jump the gun. Make sure the area is dry enough, otherwise the work of turning the soil over will only serve to compact it down. Grab a handful of soil and squeeze to form a ball. Let go and tap the ball – if it stays solid, the soil is still too wet, if it falls apart you can start cultivating.
Prune to your heart’s desire as well. Leave spring flowering shrubs and bushes like forsythia and witch hazel alone for now, so that you don’t snip off any buds. Everything else can be pruned.
The joy of a clean garden in spring is hard to beat. Sprouts peaking out of sun drenched soil and the smell of wet dirt and fresh breezes all around you. It’s well worth the work.