- Written by Melinda Myers Melinda Myers
As winter fades into spring, gardeners can’t wait to get busy in the garden. Pruning, cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses, and preparing the garden for spring planting are just a few of the tasks.
Keep yourself and the pollinators overwintering in your garden safe as you start the cleanup process.
Always prune with a purpose. Start by removing any damaged and diseased stems from shrubs and roses. Watch for insects, such as swallowtail butterflies, that overwinter in protective cocoons and the egg masses of some, such as the hairstreak butterflies.
Prevent problems by destroying overwintering nonnative pests like the gypsy moth. Search the internet and insect books for help identifying the good and bad guys you may find in your landscape.
Additional pruning may be needed to manage the size and shape or encourage better flowering and bark color. Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs, like lilacs and forsythia, if you want maximum flowering. Prune these shrubs right after flowering before they set their floral buds for next spring.
Keep yourself safe by wearing safety glasses and gloves. It’s too easy to focus on the task and end up with a stick in the eye. Heavy-duty gloves protect and support your hands, allowing you to garden longer with less stress and fewer scratches and bruises.
Consider synthetic-leather, gauntlet-style gloves, such as Foxgloves extra-protection gloves (foxglovesinc.com), which protect hands and forearms from harm yet are supple enough to allow you to work efficiently.
Lightly rake any debris off the lawn and add it to the compost pile. Check for damage and lightly tamp any disturbed areas back in place. Reseed bare spots so grass, not weeds, fills in these spots.
Brush leaves off the crowns of perennials but leave the rest in place for insects that spend winter or summer in the leaf litter. Plus, the leaves help preserve moisture, suppress weeds, and improve the soil as they break down.
Pull mulch away from tree trunks and shrub crowns that may have shifted over winter. Keeping mulch off the stems reduces the risk of future problems that can lead to decline and even death of the plants.
Let perennials and grasses stand as long as possible, since many are homes for beneficial insects. Bundle grasses for easy cutting and removal.
Once cut, loosely stack or stand perennial stems and grasses at the edge of the garden or natural spaces. This allows any insects still present to safely emerge when it’s time to move to their summer homes. Plus, birds will appreciate the easy access to nesting material.
Enjoy the changing of the seasons and the beauty of nature hidden among the plants in your garden. Protect yourself when preparing the garden for spring so you won’t lose time recovering from injuries.
And keeping the pollinators and other beneficial insects safe will improve your garden’s health and productivity throughout the growing seasons.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio program. www.melindamyers.com, www.longfield-gardens.com