Top 7 Spring Cleanings Every Garden Needs

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

Start your cleanup quickly. It’s much easier to cut plants back before the old growth gets tangled up in the new growth.

1. Remove Mulch; Prune Perennial Flowers

Remove and compost dead annual plants.

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’s 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.

3. 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.

4. Care for 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 three to five young canes remaining.

5. Prune Trees, Shrubs

Most spring-blooming trees and shrubs set their flower buds late summer and fall. Prune off their spring flowers by pruning now. Waiting 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.

6. Spring Weed Prevention

Take action against weeds in early spring. Damp soil makes it easy to pull young seedlings. Do not compost weeds.

7. Feed all Plants

Plants enjoy being fed in the spring after their initial growth spurt. Feed everything by using a hand spreader.

Our mountain water works against you because of the high pH. Soil sulfur counteracts high pH, so plants grow richer greens and brighter colors.