Zone Classifieds Garden Primer Garden Primer: 6 Essential Spring Clean Up Chores

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Garden Primer

Garden Primer: 6 Essential Spring Clean Up Chores

BY Charlie Dobbin | May 5th, 2023

When a flock of robins descended on my garden mid-February, I thought we were poised for the drama of spring. So far, this spring has been a bit slow to get going. Cool temperatures, occasional snow storms and lots of wind at my place has kept most of my garden plants asleep, or dormant.

However, temperatures are getting warmer every day, and we need to be ready to do all the important spring clean up chores that are best done early in the season. 

  1. Nothing says spring like cleaning up the yard, terrace, balcony and garden. With the snow gone, get out and clean up any windblown garbage and stinky dog debris. Weather permitting, clean out last year’s container gardens, assuming the plants did not survive the winter in pots. I have a small, double-walled pot that has provided a snug home for chives for many years. All appears dead, but when I prune out the old foliage sure enough little green sprouts are emerging! 
  2. If getting to your garden is not a wet and soggy trip, cut down all your ornamental grasses to about 4 inches (10cm) tall. Look around at all your perennials and clean up/prune out any dead debris. Walking on wet soil will compact it irreparably so avoid stepping out until your foot prints don’t remain behind you. If you cut everything back last fall then this is one spring chore you won’t need to do now.
  3. While you’re out touring the garden, look for and remove and damaged woody branches. It might not be obvious just yet, but ultimately, you’ll want to carefully prune out any material that is dead, diseased or damaged.
  4. Everyone with a lawn will know this is a great place to start your spring cleaning. Pull out a fan rake and give a vigorous combing to your lawn grasses. Dead grass should be composted immediately. Applying fertilizer just before rain is forecast will help wake up the turf and green growth will happen quickly. If crabgrass was a problem last season, use a product with corn gluten in it to inhibit the growth of any weed seeds. But note: all seeds are affected by corn gluten, and will not germinate. If you are planning to top-dress and over seed your lawn then wait five to six weeks before broadcasting any of your chosen seeds. At my place voles took advantage of the extensive snow cover and have carved extensive ‘highways’ throughout my lawn. Again — raking, adding topsoil (top-dressing) and over seeding should fairly quickly repair the damage.
  5. If you’ve started some seeds indoors, don’t forget to keep them moist. Watch for roots growing out the bottom of your small containers and pot them up to a one size larger pot. I go from cell packs to 4-inch pots with my tomatoes and other seedlings based on the rate of their growth. Eventually I’ll likely need to re-pot the vigorous growing plants again before we are frost-free and they can go outside. Keep in mind pots should be clean, preferably sterilized and potting mix should also be clean and sterile. There is nothing worse than losing young plants to diseases like damping off after you’ve coddled them for weeks.
  6. When you need a break from your screens or family members, get outside and visit your slumbering garden.  Nothing soothes the soul, lessens your stress and anxiety and boosts your immune system like a walk outside into emerging nature. Watch for early bulbs peeking out of the soil, check for animal damage on stems and branches and breathe in all the scents of spring!

A version of this story was published on April 5, 2022

Charlie Dobbin hosts “The Garden Show With Charlie Dobbin” on Zoomer Radio AM740 [a ZoomerMedia property] every Saturday at 9 a.m., ET.

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