Spring Gardening Tips for Gardeners in the Tri-State Area: March 25, 2008
This time of year the weather can be quite unpredictable: warm sunshine one day and then snow and wind on the next, so don't uncover all of your snug perennials just quite yet!
Perennial gardens can benefit if you do a few things this early in the season. First off, if you have any ornamental evergreen perennials such as liriope, hellebores, bergenia, ferns etc. you should trim off the old leaves soon to make way for new growth and flowers. Many herbs are evergreen as well such as lavender, rue, thyme, sage and germander and benefit from a small trim to promote fresh spring growth. All ornamental grasses should be cut back to the ground as well, and it is a good idea to divide clumps of Miscanthus every 2-4 years or else they might start to take on the 'ring' growth syndrome and loose vigor. Cut off old dead leaves and flowers of perennials, but leave the leaves around the base until later in April when the temperature will most likely stay warmer at night and not zap the tender shoots hiding just below. On the other hand, it is important to rake up all plant debris out of your perennial garden before it warms up too much as many pests and disease overwinter and hide in the leaves.
It is the best time of year to transplant trees and shrubs while they are in dormancy. Also, it is the best time to prune most shrubs and trees for structure. Describing correct pruning techniques could take pages, but there are a few important tips to follow for long term shrub health. First off, cut out older branches to the ground to promote healthy growth on the newer stems. Thin out the center and any crossing branches. If you look down on a shrub or a tree, all branches should basically be growing outwards (basic bonsai technique). When you cut a branch off of another stem, leave about 1/8-1/4 inch so that the bark will heal over the wound. Try not to rip or damage main stem. Prune forsythia, lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons after they bloom. For more pruning techniques check this website:
Roses also benefit from pruning. Rule of thumb on most roses, take out old canes all the way to the ground (they are usually darker and thicker). Trim the fresher canes down to 1 ft on Hybrid Tea roses, 2 ft on Landscape Roses and just tip the ends on Climbers. This forces the rose shrub to branch and blossom more profusely in the summer.
Spring and fall are great times to mulch beds.
Go out to your garden center and grab fertilizers.