A former horticulture, botany, and agriculture teacher and owner of Metzger Landscaping and Garden Center in North Manchester answers reader’s questions about gardening, plants and landscaping.
Are you feeling the gardening itch yet? We’ve all enjoyed the winter garden break, dreamed and planned, and now it’s go-time. Let’s do some digging! The crews at Metzger Landscaping have been busy bees doing spring clean-us and getting our client’s landscapes ready for a beautiful season ahead.
The months of March and April are prime time for a spring garden cleanup – and starting as early as you can means less work later on. Taking care of dead branches before trees leaf out, pulling all the small new annual weeds before they get big means more time to enjoy what you love about gardening: planting and harvesting your flowers and vegetables, and soaking in the view.
Chores for cleaning up and prepping beds and borders for the season start with pulling dead plants and remove fallen leaves and dead foliage which can smother plants and foster disease. If leaves are small and starting to compost, you can work it into the top layer of the soil around the plants. Push any frost-heaved plants back into flower beds, tamping them down around the base with your foot. Loosen the mulch and other dried plant matter covering the ground around your plants to allow water and air to the roots. Edge along beds to refresh the lines and keep grass from growing into them.
Spring clean-up time is a good time to prune dead and damaged branches from trees and shrubs. Prune tree branches back to the trunk using a handsaw for branches larger than ½ inch in diameter. Use sharp bypass pruners for shrubs and small trees, shaping as you go. Fruit trees you didn’t get to in winter can be pruned during a spring clean-up. When pruning fruit trees in the spring be sure to prune before buds begin to break into bloom or you’ll stress the tree.
Spring is a good time to prune trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Without leaves; it is easy to see the framework of the plant. Complete pruning before buds break. For general pruning of trees and shrubs remove any dead or diseased branches. Remove all water sprouts and suckers. Water sprouts are stems that grow at right angles to the branches. Suckers grow from the base of the tree. Prune out crossing or rubbing branches. Prune back to a bud or a branch. When cutting back to a bud, make sure the bud is facing outward. This will cause new growth to grow to the outside of the plant.
Shrubs that bloom in the spring like Lilacs, Spirea, Viburnum, Weigela and Forsythias should not be pruned in early spring. Pruning would remove flower buds. Prune after they finish flowering.
After the spring clean-up is completed its time to mulch. Mulching is the single most important thing you can do for your garden every year. It prevents weeds, regulates soil temperature, retains moisture, and improves soil structure.