Spring offers a host of new opportunities in the garden and yard, whether it is starting new garden themes or building hardscaping. Before beginning next year’s gardening projects you’ll want to create a fresh canvas to work with.
Removing and Composting Dead Plants
Heed the old saying, “out with the old, in with the new.” When it comes to getting your garden ready we couldn’t agree more. There is no better way to start the new gardening season than with a fresh slate. The first step to prepping your garden for the new season is to remove all the dead annual plants from last year’s garden. You should also trim back the dead growth from your perennials, this will help encourage new growth and keep large, fast-growing plants (like butterfly bushes) at a manageable size.
Dead plants can be thrown away or they can continue serving your purpose by being composted. Compost needs a good mixture of “green stuff” and “brown stuff.” Green stuff is high in nitrogen and is the heating agent for your compost and gets the mixture cooking. The brown stuff, which is high in carbon, helps the compost break down. Dead plants, fall leaves, and small diameter twigs (chip branches into small pieces) all serve well for compost.
Pruning and Trimming
Plants are pruned for a number of reasons – to remove dead material, to shape the plant, to improve or maintain its health, and to increase the new growth of flowers or fruits. For the purpose of spring-cleaning your garden, pruning will serve to remove dead material and to also remove unsightly pieces such as damaged leaves or stems.
To begin, you’ll want to make sure that you have the appropriate tools. The four main tools used are hand pruners, loppers, shearers and saws. Make sure the cutting edge is sharp and clean for best results as well as to keep your plants healthy. As a general rule, you will want to prune summer and fall flowering trees and shrubs in late winter or early spring, while spring flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned shortly after they’ve finished flowering for the season.
Common to many gardens are perennials. These plants generally need to be cut back entirely after their growing season and also need to be pruned regularly, or deadheaded, to acquire full growth potential. The following can all be pruned in the spring:
- Butterfly bushes
- Lambs ear
- Oriental poppy
Deadheading will be required throughout the gardening season to help your garden re-flower abundantly. Many flowering plants are able to produce multiple rounds of flowers in a season. In most cases, a plant will only repeat bloom where the old buds are removed. Additionally, even if your plants don’t bloom more than once, you should remove the dead flower. The energy of the plant can then be put into strengthening its stems and base rather than producing seeds in the flowering portion.
Proactive Weeding and Weed Prevention
Weeds - the garden invader. Not only are weeds unsightly, but they also take valuable nutrients from the plants you want in your garden. Weeds can drain your plants’ resources as well as choke their root system causing your garden to struggle. There are two types of weed control you can practice – preventive weeding and proactive weeding.
Preventive weeding refers to the actions you take when prepping your garden for its next season. One method is to place newspaper on your flowerbeds before laying mulch. The newspaper inhibits the growth of weeds and also breaks down in the natural elements of your garden.
You can also apply an organic solution to your garden to help prevent weed growth. A corn gluten meal formula is a powerful weed preventer. Mix Concern® Weed Prevention Plus into your soil, 2 to 4 weeks after seed germination or after bedding plants are established, for a gardening season free of weeds.
Proactive weeding can be done throughout the gardening season. Identify weeds in your garden and remove them as soon as possible to prevent root systems from being started. Young weeds are easier to remove than older ones because their roots are not yet established and wet soil is easier to weed from than dry soil.
Dividing and Transplanting
You may find that some of your plants had performed better in the past. If they seem to have less vigor and are lackluster, it may be time to divide them. Dividing and transplanting allows your plants a fresh start and the ability to re-flower without being overcrowded.
There are a few techniques that can be used to divide your plants. For perennials that have fibrous root systems, you can use your hands to pull them apart and create separate plants. For large grasses that have fibrous root systems you may need to use tools. Large grasses have larger root systems than smaller plants, so lay the root system on its side to divide it. Use a spade or shovel to split the roots and separate the plants.
Plants that grow from bulbs may seem like a challenge to divide, however understanding how to divide them simplifies the process. You want to divide out the bulb so that each piece has a growth point emerging from it.
Do you have friends that enjoy gardening, too? Host a divide and conquer party by inviting your garden friends to bring their divided plants to swap with others. You’ll end up saving money by not buying all new plants for the year, and you’ll get a wide variety of plants to use.
Edging and Mulching
Edging your flowerbeds helps to deter invading grasses, simplifies mowing, and is aesthetically pleasing. Well-crafted flower bed edges are simple to create and can be done in a few easy steps.
Begin by mapping out your edges. Garden spray paint is available to help you visualize what would work best for your lawn and garden. It is important to have sharp tools for clean lines and easy construction. Use a spade to cut into the grass about three inches and define the line. A hoe can be used to smooth out the edge. The grass and soil cut-out can be tossed into a wheelbarrow and used in compost later. Allow the lawn to grow right up to the edge and maintain a fair distance between plants and the edge on the opposite side.
Mulch creates a clean and finished look in gardens and creates a healthier environment for your flowers. Mulch reduces the growth of weeds and helps to prevent quick water evaporation. Watering a flowerbed that is mulched will result in up to 50% less evaporation than one that is uncovered. Mulch that is applied shortly after new plantings can increase the ground’s moisture and promote healthier root growth.
Various types of mulch are available for your garden. You may be familiar with:
- Shredded bark mulch – an inexpensive and easy-to-find option
- Pine bark nuggets – do not break down as easily as other mulches, but also don’t stay in place as well
- Wood chips – often a free option from local tree trimmers. Be sure to find out if the source tree had poison ivy to prevent infecting your garden
- Cocoa hull mulch – A fine texture and rich color make this non-fading mulch a favorite for gardeners, although it is one of the most expensive
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Most lawns need to be fed at least 4 times per year – April, late May, August, and October. Use an organic fertilizer, like Ringer® Lawn Restore® Fertilizer to work with your soil and grass to create a thick, lush lawn that is drought and disease resistant. A fertilizer like this will feed your lawn only when needed and treats it without using synthetic chemicals that disrupt the natural growth process of your lawn.
Cleaning Deck Surfaces and Furniture
Winter moisture and wear and tear can leave your deck, sidewalks, and patio furniture looking worn. Algae and moss can take residence on your surfaces creating a green tint and film. When prepping your garden for winter you will also want to give attention to your outdoor living spaces.
Safer® Brand Moss and Algae Killer can be sprayed on your furniture and surfaces and when scrubbed will remove algae. Because cleaning these areas outside will cause run-off it is important to use an all-natural or organic solution. Safer® Brand Moss and Algae Killer is USDA National Organic Program compliant for use in organic gardening.
Getting your yard, garden, and outdoor spaces ready for the gardening and entertaining season can be an overwhelming task. Organize your thoughts and tasks with a list and then work your way through it. All your hard work will pay off with a beautiful and organized garden and a welcoming outdoor living space.
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