South Shore gardeners know well the challenges of this wet, grey season. Our gardens can be rather uninspiring at this time of year – often brown and mucky rather than green and lush. But don’t let the drab exterior fool you! Soil life is at work and your plants are waiting for spring to shoot up and greet the warm sun.
Early spring is the perfect time to get out into your garden and reconnect with the land. This work is important for our gardens and for us! We need fresh air, sunshine and the smell of soil to energize us for the growing season ahead. Read more about the benefits of nature for health and happiness here.
Not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered. Here are my top five early spring garden clean-up tasks:
1. Prune trees and shrubs. It’s best to prune large trees and shrubs during winter, before they break dormancy. In winter, sap descends to plant roots, reducing injury when we prune. Spring is also a good time to support any plants that were damaged in winter storms. The exception is any tree or shrub that flowers in early spring. For these wait until fall or until after they flower.
2. Work the soil and warm the soil. When gardening, I aim to disturb the soil as little as possible. This allows soil life to develop and maintains the soil structure and horizon. Sometimes, though, we need to turn our gardens for planting, aeration and weeding. Early spring is the best time to do these jobs, because soil life is primarily dormant until the growing season begins. This is also a good time to pull back mulch from your spring plants and annual beds to warm the soil, encouraging growth and establishment.
3. Clean up last year’s herbaceous plant growth. I choose to leave most dead plant matter in my garden over winter. I do this because it insulates the soil and soil life, protecting it from erosion and winter weather. Some plants, like grasses, still look nice throughout the winter, and should be cut to the ground in early spring to promote new growth (read more about caring for ornamental grasses here). Now is the time to clean-up that dead matter, composting what you can to add fertility to your garden later (learn composting basics here).
4. Plant cold-hardy annuals and cover crops. What can you plant at this time of year you ask? Cold-hardy greens and herbs of course! Try parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, mustards and lettuces. This is also a great time to sow a cover crop to precede a summer crop, adding fertility to the garden and attracting insect pollinators (learn more about pollinator-friendly gardening here). Pea-oat mix and buckwheat are good options. Simply broadcast them and dig them in a few weeks before you plant your next crop.
5. Clean and fill bird-feeders to attract birds, and their pollination services. No garden is complete without bird friends! Remember to clean and dry your feeders to prevent spread of disease. Birds offer pollination and fertilization services while adding beauty and complexity to our gardens. Food is in short supply in early spring, when birds are nesting and need energy. Try adding more bird feeders. The birds will repay you with lushness for your garden and food for your soul.
If you need help with spring clean-up or any other garden and land care tasks, Earthshine Gardens is here to help. Jump start your 2018 landscape today with the South Shore’s holistic ecological land care company. Contact us today.
That said, nature awaits. Let’s get outside and garden!