Better Prepare For The Growing Season
If you are at a loss as to what to do with your landscape in the spring, let the professionals at Fralich's Landscape and 317Mulch-It help you with a few things you can do to better prepare for the growing season.
Cut Back Perennials
Cut back winter dieback on all perennials left over from the fall season. Most perennials will show you whether or not they need to be cut back in the spring with the dead branching. Most of perennial should be cut back to about 2” to 3” above the ground on rooting plants and almost flush to the ground for plants that grow from a bulb. We like to leave a about an inch left on any bulb plant to help us find them during early mulching.
Be careful not to cut back plants that are evergreen such as Coral Bells or plants that grow from existing growth like most shrubs and hydrangeas.
Any plant debris that you clear from the garden can be used in a compost pile for later. Just be careful not to add any weeds to the compost mix as these can drop seeds and regrow.
Cut Back Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses can be cut back in either the fall or early spring. Grasses should be cut back above what is called the crown. The crown is where the regrowth takes place each year. For most ornamental grasses the crown is anywhere from 4” to 6”. If you cut below the 4” mark you may end up damaging the plant and hurting its regrowth.
Throw away any ornamental grass clippings. Some grass varieties will reseed heavily and the tough fibers in an ornamental grass will keep it from breaking down quickly.
If your ornamental grasses are too large for an area rather than dig them up divide them. After cutting the grass back you can take a sharp garden spade and cut off small sections to remove. Once you get the grass down to a manageable size simply pack soil back around the remaining roots.
Lightly Prune Evergreens
Don’t be afraid to give the evergreen plants in your yard some attention. Lightly prune any erratic growth on needled evergreens and trim back dieback on leafy evergreens. If you are shearing for shape only tip back the new bud growth. If pruning larger branches is necessary make all cuts within the plant where possible to hide the new cut with other foliage. Most needled evergreen plants will not grow back in the cut area.
When the soil is wetter and softer in the spring removing weeds cleanly is an easier task. Pull weeds at the base of the foliage to bring out as much of the root as possible. In the early spring, spraying the weeds does not usually end with a good result since the perennial weeds are dormant and won’t take in the chemical.
Be sure to throw away any weeds that you pull in a sealed trash bag to prevent them from spreading again.
In the fall, many weed varieties drop seeds to the earth. These seeds overwinter and begin to grow in the spring. To limit the spring weed growth you can apply a pre-emergent such as preen to your landscape beds. Pre-emergent works by coating the seed in a shell to keep it from germinating to begin with. While pre-emergent won’t stop all of the weeds, it will greatly reduce the number that you have to deal with.
Edge and Mulch
If you do not already have a landscape edging in place a spade edge will keep your beds and your lawn separate most of the year. To start mark a line with upside down marking paint where you want your bed edge to be. Once marked out cut the edge between the bed and the turf at a 90-degree angle and at a depth of 2” or 3”. This will keep grass from growing into your landscape bed.
Applying a layer of mulch around landscape plants and on bare landscape beds will help with your spring cleanup in a number of ways. First and foremost a new layer of mulch will clean up the look of your landscape and give it a fresh look.
The other benefits of mulch are that it works as a minor weed barrier as well as a retainer for moisture. Just be sure that you don’t put the much on too thick. If you have bare soil in the spring you can add up to 2” as long as you don’t cover the foliage of any plants. If you have an existing layer of mulch down keep it on the lighter side at 1” to 1.5” instead. Too much mulch can suffocate the roots of the plants and hold too much moisture.