10 Point Spring Gardening Checklist

Now that it' s Spring and the weather is warming up, you are probably starting to plan what needs to be done in your garden. Here is a 10 point checklist of important tasks:

1) Clean up old leaves, broken branches and debris left from the winter. (If you are working in woodland beds or beds with Spring bulbs, carefully lift leaves by hand.) Such leaves can be shredded and used as a summer mulch (2" -3" deep), especially around Rhododendron, Andromeda and other woodland shrubs.

2) Examine your shrubs for winter damage and prune, as required. When pruning, go for the 5 "D"s: dead, damaged, diseased, diminutive (too small), and diverging (growing into or across other branches, for example). Be careful, work slowly and deliberately. Stand back often to see the effects of your work. If in doubt, don't prune until plant has fully leafed out and/or bloomed.

Note: learn about your shrubs! Don't prune Spring bloomers until after they bloom. Some plant families have more complex rules, such as Hydrangea: H. macrophylla (Lace Cap or Mop Head types) bloom on old wood and should not be pruned except later in the summer after they bloom. H. quercifolia (Oak Leaf) don't really ever need pruning except if a branch is damaged. Finally, H. paniculata or H. tartiva types can be pruned in the early Spring as they bloom on new wood.

3) Cut back any grasses (except evergreen types such as Carex), ferns and perennials left standing over-winter.

4) Start a fresh compost pile using these cuttings and any extra fallen leaves left over from the fall. (Exclude Peony, Iris, Sycamore and other disease-susceptible leaves from the pile). Add grass clippings during the season to increase nitrogen (green) content within the compost pile.

5) Fertilize your shrubs and perennials. For shrubs, use a general purpose organic fertilizer. For perennials, a rich compost is probably best.

6) Lime your Lilacs (about a cup per bush), sprinkled around the root zone and gently "scratched in" to the top inch of soil.

7) Divide any perennials which were over-grown or too crowded last season.

8) Apply new summer mulch (2"-4") to beds. Shrubs benefit from an un-dyed, shredded bark mulch. Perennials prefer a more organic mulch with a high compost value.

9) Apply your first round of deer repellant. Since many shrubs are just beginning to leaf out (a time when deer find the leaves very tasty), be sure to adequately spray even "bare" branches. For perennials, spray around the crown and emerging leaves. Since this is a time of rapid growth, spraying every week or so would be most beneficial. Consider using a granular repellant broadcast directly onto the beds for this early Spring emergent period. (I use Milorganite which is also a general purpose organic fertilizer.)

10) Start your seeds now. (Some can be sown directly outside, others need to be started indoors.)

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