Spring clean your garden
The snow has melted, the buds are breaking and the brown, soggy mess that we call a lawn is gradually turning into fresh, green grass. Now is the time to make way for another great season by giving your garden a spring cleaning. Taking the time to spruce up the garden now, pays off big-time later in the season. Here are three easy ways to spring clean your garden:
Walk around your garden. The dry, grey stalks and stems of last year's perennials like sedum, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, and phlox probably look a little sad. With a pair of clean, sharp garden shears, cut them to the ground to make way for the new growth appearing from the crown of the roots. This is also a good time to tidy up shrubs and vines that blossom from this year's growth. Clematis such as the sweet autumn clematis Clematis terniflora, the Jackmanii types, and the viticella varieties benefit from a judicious pruning as does the vigorous trumpet vine Campsis radicans. Shrubs like buddleia Buddleia davidii, smoke bush Cotinus, spirea Spiraea douglasii and S. japonica, hydrangea, and rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus need a light pruning each spring to remove dead or crossing stems and branches.
If you protected your garden beds with a winter mulch of leaves, carefully rake them off to allow the soil to warm up more quickly. Toss the leaves onto a compost heap where they'll turn into rich, dark compost that can be applied to the garden in the fall or next spring.
A spring tonic
Feeding your plants a spring tonic means more blossoms and healthier plants come summer. The best tonic for plants is compost. Its nutrients are released slowly, giving your plants a steady supply of food all season long. If you don't make your own, many communities offer compost to residents for a small fee.
Topdress your flower beds with a thin layer of compost, working it around, but never over the crowns of your perennials and shrubs, using a three-pronged cultivator or garden trowel. This is also a good time to fertilize roses and rhododendrons. Use a fertilizer specially formulated for these flowering shrubs, preferably a slow-release type that gradually adds nutrients to the root zone of the shrubs. Roses also benefit from a topdressing of well-composted manure which is readily available from nurseries each spring.
The finishing edge
Once you've freshened up your garden beds by pruning, clipping and topdressing, it's time to give them the finishing touch. Nothing impresses more than a sharp, clean edge between your flower borders and the lawn. Using an edger – a half-moon shaped, long-handled tool – dig a shallow trough a few inches wide along the length of the garden. To keep the edge straight, use a board to guide you. This can be very satisfying work in a small garden, but back breaking in a larger one where you might prefer to install a permanent edging. Nurseries carry a wide selection of edging, from rolls of sturdy black vinyl to attractive stone, brick, and timber.