How to Wake Up Your Garden!

It’s so close! You can almost smell it – rich earth, sprouting seeds, perennials popping up. If this last snow storm hasn’t dampened your spirits, yes, it is finally that time of year to begin prepping your garden. And yes, we do need to wait for the snow to melt for most tasks. But here are some tips to hold you over while the snow recedes and you begin to see the color green where for so many months, brown has predominated.

Shrubs that have made it through the winter, perhaps providing some evergreen interest along the way, can be the first items of attention. Inspect them for dead leaves or damaged branches and remove them with garden shears. Also, think about the shape and size of the shrub. Remove any gangly shoots that seem out of place or disruptive to its overall shape. And search for branches that are touching or rubbing together. Remove the one that contributes the least to the shrub’s overall shape.

You’ll want to begin the spring growing season with the right tools and in good condition. Replace any that didn’t make it through last season and make certain tools are clean to begin the new year. This is a step many gardeners do at the end of the growing season, before they put their garden tools away for winter. But if you have not, hose off large tools, wash your garden gloves and use a disinfectant such as alcohol or Clorox wipes on hand tools.

Once the snow melts, the soil drains and the temperature remains in the 50s, it’s time to prepare your garden beds. While perennials have over-wintered underground, there will be new perennials and annuals you’ll be planting and prepping the soil early in the season will make planting easier. Rake up dead leaves, twigs and branches. Remove any old mulch you might have used to help plants weather the winter. Loosen up soil that has frozen and thawed, oxygenating roots and making it easier for new shoots to break through. Some perennials will do best if they are divided. Iris, rudbeckia, salvia and daylilies are examples.

If a perennial appears as a circle, with no green in its center, chances are the center has died. Overcrowding results in too much competition for water, nutrients and sunshine. By lifting and separating the bulbs and/or root ball, then cutting a few sections off the plant, you enable it to fill in the center and produce more blooms. Before plants begin to flourish and spread, while the garden is bare, is an ideal time to fertilize. Using an organic compost or time release fertilizer, work the rich fertilizer into the soil, being careful not to catch your rake on any emerging sprouts. This will add nutrients into the soil to feed roots and aerate the soil, making it easier for new shoots to find the light of day.

Planning your garden would be such fun in the midst of winter, when garden catalogues begin to arrive. But you’ll need to wait and see which plants and shrubs have made it through the winter first. Then look for open bare spots in need of color and texture and have fun with spring planting!