Even though there are some flurries falling, and there is a light coating of snow on the ground, I’m choosing to ignore it. I’m focused, instead, on the nice weather we had last week. The sun was finally shining, and the snow was melting. I took this opportunity to go outside and start my garden clean up!
For me, March always means garden clean up. I get excited knowing that the nice weather is approaching. This year, with all of the snow we’ve had, I had to wait a bit longer, but I was able to get outside last week and clean up some of the beds. It’s always great to pull out the old leaves and junk that filled the garden during the winter and see what’s starting to emerge underneath.
The first thing I do when I’m cleaning up after the winter is cut anything back that I didn’t cut in the fall. I do go through and cut back in the fall, but often times, there are some plans that have interesting leaves or even the dried blooms have enough appeal that I want to keep them into the winter. And my mums were blooming well into December, so I just let them go. Cutting back now just cleans up the garden and gets everything ready for new growth.
The next thing I do is rake. This is really the biggest part of the spring cleaning in the garden. I have a metal rake that is pretty flexible, so it won’t do too much damage, especially since I do rake rigorously. I’m trying to clear out all of the dead leaves and branches that have fallen into the garden and gotten matted down from the snow. The important thing to remember, though, if you’re taking this approach, is you need to do it early in the season. As the plants start to grow, if you’re raking through them, you could do some damage. Here, I had some daffodils starting to emerge, and some chrysanthemums, but that was really it. Both were small enough, so the rake didn’t do any damage. But in some of the areas, I did reach in and remove the leaves and other debris with my hands, just to be sure.
Once the dead stuff is removed, you really have a better view into how things are progressing. You may see a plant emerging that you didn’t want in a particular spot, or maybe you had forgotten about a bulb when you planted something else during the summer. This is a good time to inspect and move things around if it’s early enough to do so. I also love to just see what has made it through the winter. The spring blooms are some of my favorite, especially since there haven’t been any blooms all winter. It’s always so nice to see everything starting back up again.
The other thing I do while I’m doing the clean up is I inspect any of the bigger bushes or trees. Some of these branches will need to be cut back because they are crossing another or just growing in the wrong spot. This is a good time to do some of that pruning, early enough so that you aren’t impacting the growth.
Finally, this is a great time to take a look at any supports or hardscaping. This year, as I was cleaning, I noticed my wrought iron supports around the porch that have roses, clematis, and wisteria growing on them are rusting. I’ll need to sand and paint them this year. Because I have plants that grow up these support, I’ll need to take care of this project soon, before the plants are covering them. Hopefully in a week or so it will stay warm enough to get this done.
One thing that I want to stress about the clean up is please, don’t just trash all of the leaves and debris that you’ve raked and pulled from the garden. This already decomposing plant material is perfect for the compost pile. If you have one, definitely add it to the pile. It’s already on its way to becoming amazingly rich food for your plants. If you don’t have a pile yet, consider starting one, especially since you have this great material to start with. It really is easy, just pile up the organic matter (get rid of any trash, plastic, or other material that may have blown into the beds) at this point…but don’t throw it away! It’s good stuff.
I’m very excited that I have started the yard work. I think my next project this week will be to start the seeds indoors. Spring is almost here, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!