Our garage is not attached to our house. I need to walk through the garden to get inside. My husband claims that this time of year it takes me an extra 20 minutes to walk the 15 yards. He’s probably right. I’m observing the garden and giving it a thorough inspection. I’m looking for the first signs of spring, determining what debris needs to be cleared, what pruning to do. I see I need to clean the bird houses and decide which new plants I can fit into my small space. I love gardening and since becoming a Green Spring Master Gardener I know a lot more about what needs to be accomplished. Whatever its size, a garden needs to be readied for spring.
Spring seems far away but isn’t. Every morning I ask Alexa, “How many days till spring?” I read the plant catalogs that arrive daily and am anxious to get started. Today I saw a few daffodils (Nacissus) pushing through the dirt. I saw some early snow drops (Leucojum aestivum) at Green Springs Gardens the other day and expect their appearance in my garden anytime. I will begin cleaning the beds and amending the soil before too many more bulbs and plants appear. I don’t want to step on them as I work. I’ll add compost or manure now so it has time to mix with the soil to avoid burning the roots of the new tender plants. I’m getting ready to start seeds indoor and making a plan on how to use more native plants.
This is a good time to prune some plants but all plants are not pruned alike! Late winter is a perfect time to prune summer-blooming shrubs like certain species of hydrangea, spirea or clethra. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs like dogwood, forsythia and azaleas should not be pruned until after their flowers fade in the spring. Clear away and compost the dead stalks of perennials. They provided winter seeds and nesting for the birds, insects and wildlife but now it’s time to clear them away. Dead or dying limbs can be removed at any time.
There is a vast collection of gardening books at the Green Spring Gardens Library. It’s a perfect place to conduct research if you have gardening questions and like to find your own answers. If you want expert help look into the March 17 lecture, given by Green Spring Master Gardeners, “Spring Garden Kickoff”. Go to www.faifaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring for more information.
What else can you do to prepare your garden? Prep your garden tools. Clean with soap and water and apply mineral spirits on wood handles. As you make your gardening plans, be certain you know your planting zone. If you have a lawn rake it to remove fall and winter debris. This also helps get air to the root zone. Get out your pitch fork and turn over your compost pile. The bottom has the best organic matter. Don’t do this if it’s covered with snow. Wait until snow clears.
The time you spend now will ensure healthy plants and shrubs. You’ll be ready for spring and everything blooming.
Gioia Caiola Forman
Green Spring Gardens Master Gardener