Seven Ways to Wake Up Your Spring Garden

A viola pansy opens in the afternoon sun in the Fragrance Garden of BBG.

March is the month of expectation. Though the long, cold winter is finally coming to a close, it still doesn’t seem like spring has quite sprung yet. But it’s not too early to get back into the garden. Early spring is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for the warm months

Clean Up Nonwoody Perennials

Some cold-hardy perennials such as heucheras and irises may not go completely dormant during the winter and cling to their leaves even during winter’s storms. But chances are they’re looking pretty bedraggled now. Use your pruners to remove brown or tattered leaves.

Prune Woody Perennials and Roses

Now is the time to prune roses and shrubs. Since they’ve just begun to leaf out or bloom (whichever comes first, depending on the species), it’s easy to spot dead branches or rose canes. Prune by cutting on an angle just above the base of the branch or cane.

Get a Jump Start on Weeding

Most annual weeds won’t germinate until late spring, but many perennials, such as dandelion, start leafing out very early. Dig deep and remove the entire root of any wild perennials that you don’t want in your garden.

Prepare Soil

Add generous amounts of compost to beds and borders, working it into the top few inches of soil. Top dress perennials by spreading an inch or two of compost around them, making sure not to let the compost actually touch the plant. If your soil is acidic, add garden lime to neutralize the pH. If you have heavy clay soil with poor drainage, add sand, pumice, and/or compost.

Plant Cold-Hardy Blooming Annuals

Spring temperatures can be unpredictable, but annuals like pansies and primroses can handle chilly weather and will give your garden an instant color boost. Their flowers and foliage will be fine even if there’s a late frost.

Get Containers Ready

If you didn’t clean your empty plant containers at the end of the season last year, do it now to prevent plant disease and infestation problems later. Scrub non-clay pots with soapy water. If you had pests last year, soak containers in a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water for ten minutes. Scrub clay pots with steel wool to remove mineral deposits.

Plan Ahead

Spend some time out in the garden mapping out where you’ll want to place annuals and any other new additions later in the season. Nurseries will be bringing out their offerings before you know it.


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