Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Yard and Garden Cleanup, or “Spring – Glorious Spring!” by Gardener Dave

Agastache Ava by Dave Moland

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”
                                        - Margaret Atwood

This may be “one of our many springs” on the Front Range, but we will take the weather as it comes, because after all, what choice do we have? We can only hope and pray that our foolish and idealistic trees, operating on their own sense of the season, do not get frosted – thus losing their first crop of leaves and, in the case of the fruit trees, their precious blossoms.

We, as practical gardeners, will just make use of the pleasant warm days to start our “Spring Yard and Garden Cleanup” in preparation for “our actual spring” – which will come eventually, as it does every year. Meanwhile, let’s look at a few of the things we can do at this time of year. These have worked well for me over the many years I have been gardening.

Even though we had considerable snow in February, it is now an unusually dry March and some sheltered areas, especially under coniferous trees, are quite dry. Normally, we do not plant under trees if they are in our own yard, but in my situation, my neighbor has spruce trees that are quite close to our common fence, and I stubbornly keep trying to grow perennials up near that fence. I should know better, right?  The trees are not so close as to shade my plants, but their root systems are most certainly there. I have planted some “water-wise” perennials there – agastache, coneflower, sage, iris, penstemon, winecups (Callirhoe involucrata) and a few ornamental grasses, but I do water the area quite well at this time of year to give them a fair start for the spring. They don’t mind a little frost, even if they have sprouted.

  When cleaning up matted leaves and other over-winter debris which has blown into fence lines, corners and sheltered spots, I find that a good yard-vacuum, such as my B&D “Leaf Hog” is a valuable asset. There are several others on the market which, I am sure, will do as well as mine. I always use it as a vacuum/grinder, never as a blower. The debris gets ground up and the volume is reduced nearly 10-fold. The resulting mass – caught in the vacuum’s bag – is much easier to handle and/or bag up than loose, unprocessed leaves and twigs, etc.

We gardeners do a lot of work on our knees. Spring garden cleanup involves getting down on our knees and using our pruning tools and our hands to gather up the detritus still attached to sprouting perennials and lodged in bushes where yard-vacuums are not effective. I like to use a low, wide bucket or tub for the debris. They are easy to throw “stuff” into while on my knees, and when full they are easily emptied it into a higher, standard-size trash can. They can even act as a “boosting platform” when we get back up! Our trash pickup company does not object to taking compact non-bagged yard trash, and I feel justified because I am not adding more non-biodegradable plastic bags to the landfills.

Pruning is another task that should be done at this time of year when leaves are not out yet and the “scaffold” form of the tree or shrub can more easily be viewed. In addition – If they are still fully dormant – our pruning tools may be used without sterilizing between cuts on those that have, or may have fireblight or other bacterial diseases. For pruning techniques on specific types of trees or shrubs, refer to the following CSU publications: “GardenNotes” 610, 613, 614, 616, 618, and 619, among others.

Good spring(s) to you, however many we may have!

 Gardener Dave