By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Serious gardeners are in the garden on the first warm day of spring. While there is no harm in cleaning up fallen branches and debris, wait until the soil is no longer wet enough to form a ball in your hand before walking on it and compacting. But start your cleanup quickly. It’s much easier to cut plants back before the old growth gets tangled up in the new growth. Here are the insider tips for a gorgeous garden this springs.
#1 Remove Mulch and Prune Your Perennial Flowers
The first task is removing and composting dead annual plants that remain through winter. These will not return, and any self-seeders will already have done their job.
The perennials look pretty ugly as spring approaches. Herbaceous perennials hibernate underground through winter. Look closely. Once you see new growth at their base, it is time to remove winter mulch and prune them back to ground level.
#2 Prune Woody Perennial Flowers
Shrubby plants with woody stems, like artemisia, butterfly bush, caryopteris, and lavender, must be cut back before spring; they only bloom on new branch growth. Most of these woody perennials send signals when it is time to prune, showing open buds on the lower portion or base of the plant. Pruned then to encourage the plant to grow tender new flower branches.
#3 Trim Evergreen & Semi-Evergreen Perennials
Some perennials partially go dormant and need cleaning. Plants like Epimedium, Hellebores, Heuchera, and bearded Iris retain their leaves through winter. Spring is the time to trim the tattered foliage and encourage new growth.
#4 Prune Ornamental Grasses
If you left your ornamental grasses up for winter interest, cut them back as soon as possible. Don’t wait for new growth to show. Cut grasses to within a few inches of the ground. They will grow back when ready.
#5 Care for Your Roses
Prune, clean, and fertilize roses as soon as new buds grow. Generally, this is the end of February through March. Most shrub roses appreciate pruning down to knee height with 3 to 5 young canes remaining. Pick off all remaining leaves and rake the area clean. Spray what remains with Horticultural Oil and feed with a Systemic Rose Food.
#6 Prune Trees and Shrubs
Most spring-blooming trees and shrubs set their flower buds last summer and fall. You prune off their spring flowers by pruning now. Wait until after they bloom is the best time to cut them back. Focus pruning on summer blooming shrubs like Rose of Sharon, Potentilla, Russian, and Autumn Sages. These are safe to prune now. Vines like honeysuckle, ivy, and trumpet vine are safe to prune now. Maple, aspen, oak, ash, and the rest should all be pruned now.
#7 Clean & Fertilize Evergreens
Most evergreens require little spring care other than basic cleanup. Spring is an excellent time to fertilize evergreens before they actively flush new growth. Feed with Watters 7-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food for rich green growth this spring. This is an excellent time to feed evergreen hedges of Red Tip Photinia, Euonymous, Cotoneaster, and Juniper. All benefit from spring feeding of 7-4-4.
#8 Spring Weed Prevention
Early spring is the time to take action against weeds. Damp soil makes it easy to pull young seedlings. Do not compost weeds. They come back to haunt you. Clean the gardens up, then apply Watters ‘Weed & Grass Stopper‘ to keep the area weed free. This granular weed seed killer prevents weeds from germinating and is worth the extra step.
#9 Feed all Your Plants
Plants enjoy being fed in the spring when they have their initial growth spurt. Watters 7-4-4 ‘All Purpose Food‘ is the ideal granular plant food. Feed everything in the yard by using a hand spreader. The soil will look ‘salt & peppered’ when complete. Another benefit of this natural plant food is the margin for mistakes. It is much harder to burn plants with slow-released organic plant food. This food is also excellent for vegetables and container plants inside and out.
Spring + ‘Soil Sulfur‘ is the secret to the best Spring gardens ever. Our mountain water works against you because of the high pH. Soil Sulfur – counteracts high pH, so plants grow richer greens and brighter colors. Apply once to the entire landscape with the Spring feeding for maximum beauty, silvery blue from spruce, holly, and hydrangea, larger roses, and taller perennials. Even grasses benefit.
#10 Mulch and Edge
Mulch does many beautiful things for your garden. Mulch conserves water, cools roots, feeds the soil, and smothers weeds. There is no question that every garden deserves a 2-3″ inch layer of mulch. Wait until the soil dries a bit. Keep it away from the stems and crowns of your plants.
Free Garden Classes offered by Watters Garden Center
We go deep into growing better. Check out this spring’s class selection offered every Saturday @ 9:30 am.
February 25 – Evergreens that Bloom Early
March 4 – Spring To-Do List for Better Gardens
March 11 – 2023 New Plant Introductions
Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners grow better here at Watters Garden Center.