Preparing Beds for Spring
Spring always seems like the perfect time to refresh our planting beds. Not only does it make the most practical sense – with our soil ready to be worked and the beds noticeably naked – but we just seem to have more energy to get things done in the spring. It’s a time for new beginnings, new life, and a burst of enthusiasm after the chillier winter weather and we’re ready to make the most out of being outside again!
The arrival of spring showers and warmer temperatures has our garden ready to go, it just needs our help to get headed in the right direction. Start by taking a walk around to have a look at the state of affairs – check for any over-wintered damage that needs to be addressed before you get growing. Think about:
What needs a trim? Perennials and ornamental grasses are often left over the colder winter months and their dried foliage might be the first eyesore that you encounter. Their dried leaves might not look very glamorous, but they were excellent protection for your plants while they waited for growing season to return! Once the temperatures are back to a more comfortable level, feel free to trim these plants back to make room for new growth.
Some specific plants – especially many shrubs – love a spring sleep-in and shouldn’t be trimmed until their buds start to show. Keep the shears and scissors away from shrubs like hydrangeas that need the extra time to get started. These plants have some winter dieback but some parts will actually be growing in the spring, and a trigger-happy trim too soon might leave you with a shrub much smaller than it needed to be! Mindful pruning is a good way to clear out the old, without getting too excited and trimming away the new with it.
What needs some filling in? It’s normal to have some bare spots – our gardens are an always-evolving work in progress. Over the seasons and years, some plants will fare better than others for a long list of different reasons, and spring is the perfect time to start dreaming about the touch-ups you want to do around your yard to make it better. Consider planting some multi-season annuals for an instant pop of color or investing in perennials for something dependable that will be there to bloom year after year.
How is my groundcover looking? Mulch and rock have a way of mysteriously disappearing year to year, like socks in the dryer, and will need to be replenished. Both rock and mulch should be in generous amounts, about 3-4 inches thick (a little thinner around perennials and bulbs), to properly serve their purpose. Most years we find ourselves adding at least an inch of mulch to keep our yards looking and working their best. While rock doesn’t seem to disappear quite as quickly, it’s worth checking your cover as it may need a top-up.
Once you’ve done your springtime census, you’ll have a basic list of what you need to bring it up to par. Keep in mind that this is also the perfect opportunity to touch up other aspects of your garden to set your plants up for a great performance this spring and summer. Think about adding some nutrients to your soil with compost or slow-release fertilizer before you start planting. That way your new additions will have all the resources they need for enthusiastic growing and blooming, right at their roots!
Planting summer and fall bulbs is a great way to boost the look and performance of your yard beyond the building blocks of what your garden needs to thrive. These are an investment in your garden’s future, where you can plant them and forget about them. Later, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous blooms making an appearance later in the year – like finding money in an old jacket pocket!
If your perennials or grasses are doing a little too well for the area that you planned to grow them in, early spring is a great opportunity to divide them and plant new plants elsewhere in your garden. Spreading your favorite perennials to other parts of your landscape is a great way to add interest and joy to your yard. You can even share them with friends as a fun way to mix and match the best of the best!
If you ran out of time in the fall, this is the last chance to prune back trees. Take this chance to shape your trees to fit the style and look of your yard, before they settle in for another season of growing.
The spring is an exciting time, especially for us gardeners that can’t wait to get our hands dirty. Before those first few green sprouts start showing, though, there’s plenty to do to make sure that we’ve set our garden and landscape up for another year of beautiful success.