Spring cleanup, what does that mean exactly? Let’s examine that question. Spring brings us not only warmer weather and good amounts of rain, but also leftover leaves, branches that have fallen out of the trees over winter, trash that has blown into the yard etc. So spring cleanup means getting rid of everything that will damage your garden or look bad aesthetically.
Let’s start the process off by talking about timing. The earlier you can get out there and do some cleanup the better. The grass is still dormant so a vigorous raking will not hurt the crown of the plant. It is also easier to rake at this time of the year because the grass is not growing so its shorter and easier to rake. The first thing I do is pick up all the big branches that have fallen and then give the grass a good raking. Raking not only removes debris from the grass, but also removes the dead blades of grass that have died over winter. Raking also loosens up the soil somewhat and increases air circulation. The next thing I do is prune down all of the perennials that I may have left up over the winter. I leave up some of my perennials up because they have winter interest, or the birds like to eat the seeds out of the seed heads. I also mulch my beds with leaves in the fall so after I have cut all of the perennials down I rake the beds out. Next I prune any shrubs or trees that need it. Early spring is good for this because the shrubs and trees are still dormant. Because they are dormant there are no leaves to get in your way and you can see what you are doing. I don’t prune my spring blooming shrubs like lilacs, spirea, or clethra at this time because it will remove the flower buds and I won’t get a good showing. After the spring blooming shrubs are done blooming, I do the pruning on those. This way they will set there buds for the next season and I will have a great show the next year as well. The last thing I do is empty my pond (its a small one), clean out the muck and debris, and refill it. Its still too early for my aquatic plants but I get everything ready and then place them in the pond when it warms up.
After all the clean up is done. I look around for any weeds that may have already cropped up, pull them out, and then apply a pre-emergent weed control to keep new seeds from germinating. Pre-emergent herbicides will only kill seeds so you don’t have to worry about your existing plants, but you should always check the label to make sure you are applying it correctly. Also, you can not use this type of herbicide in an area that you want to plant a vegetable garden unless you are going to use plants. If you are going to direct seed your vegetables they will be killed by the herbicide. Once the herbicide is applied you can not disturb the soil or it won’t work. It acts as a chemical weed barrier.
The last thing I do in my list of spring clean up to do’s is to bring out all of the pots and decorative items that I keep in the garden that can not be out over winter. I dress my picnic table with a nice table cloth and I am ready for spring, summer and fall barbeques. Have a good spring. Next week we will address vegetable gardens.