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Garden: Feeling Spring Feverish

The following is a regular column that addreses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Brian Cruey, who is as delighted as every gardener that spring appears to have arrived. Here he offers the basics on a bit of spring cleaning for your garden.

Helleborus saying hello.

YES! I am ready to believe! I can cautiously commit to being excited about spring now. I say cautiously because I think we can all remember a time or two when we were certain that spring was here to stay only to have our optimism crushed by an April (or even May) snowfall. However, with the ground warming and those really cold days getting less and less likely, even that snow usually doesn’t last too long and it’s back to business as usual before no time.

Maybe I’m still riding my Vitamin D high, but in many ways, this time of year is one of my favorites in the garden. I spend so much time just looking at the ground for signs of life, it’s like “Where’s Waldo.” But in this version I’m trying to spot the tips of daffodils, the round tiny heads of my sedums coming up through the leaves or the pointy, red crowns of my peonies just starting to pierce the soil. These small signs are so meaningful after a long winter, and in just a few short weeks they’ll be everywhere.

Peonies playing peek-a-boo.

Of course, that growth means the arrival of another rite of spring: chores. While I’m taking that first long look at the garden, it’s good to look for other things: clogged drains, downed branches, maybe (if you’re me) a garden tool that somehow didn’t quite make it to the barn. Also look at your stone walls and paths. The freeze and thaw of winter and spring can cause a lot of heaving and movement. The same goes for stones in your yard. Every year during my first mow, I get surprised by a new rock that wasn’t there the year before. Take the time to walk your lawn and look for new obstacles that might have popped up before you find it with your mower.

Also look for broken limbs in your shrubs and trees that may have been caused by the wind or snowfall. Now is a good time to prune back damaged or dead branches. I also like to do a bit of clearing this time of year as well. With the ground wet and loose, it’s easier to pull out small seedlings and other brush. Be careful though — I don’t usually like to cut brush back at this time, instead focusing on things that I can only pull out by the root. Sometimes when you cut back brush in spring, you can unintentionally stimulate even more growth. 

Also, watch your step. Moving around the garden during this time can be tricky. There’s a lot that you can’t see getting ready to pop up and the topsoil is wet and loose. You don’t want to damage your plants by stepping in the wrong spot. After all — they’ve waited just as long as you have for spring!

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/08/14 at 08:29 AM • Permalink