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I simply can't wait any longer for signs of spring. Flipping the calendar page to March gives me a subliminal boost. The spring seasons really test the patience of gardeners, as much as it tests our skills. One day the weather is glorious; the next it's killing all the promising buds. Keep your guard up, but still enjoy - Spring is here!

Spring Clean Up Time

March 2014      

Thoughts from the Cottage…

Don't forget your perennial beds. Start cutting back the plants that you left standing for winter interest. By now you've probably noticed the first green swirls of new growth on your Autumn Joy sedum, so you can cut off the spent flowers. The birds have picked clean the seeds from your purple coneflower and Liatris, so those attractive seed heads can get snipped off, too. As soon as the first leaves surface on your butterfly bush and bluebeard, you can prune them back as well to spur new growth and bountiful blooms.

Spring is the ideal time for dividing or transplanting. Try to do this as soon as possible after the plant emerges.  It's amazing how quickly plants recover from this abuse if you catch them early, when the weather is still mild and they're raring to grow.

Mulch does many wonderful things for your garden: conserves water, cools plant roots, feeds the soil, smothers weeds... There's no question that every garden deserves a layer of mulch. Wait until the soil warms up and dries out a bit, before replenishing your mulch. Be sure to keep it away from the stems and crowns of your plants and, if you’re hoping for some self-seeding volunteers, give them a chance to germinate before you cover the bed with mulch.

And if you still have some energy after the mulching, the finishing touch is edging. A crisp edge makes a garden bed look polished. It also helps prevent your lawn from crawling into your flower bed. Don't underestimate the power of a clean edge.

If you are like me you can't wait to get started in the spring garden! We are so anxious to see bulbs sprouting, buds unfurling and color splashed throughout the garden. And yes, even though it is a bit early to get your hands in the dirt, there is plenty you can do to gear up for the gardening season.

We can not forget the birds! After a long winter the bird feeder and baths need to be cleaned. Disinfect the feeders by scrubbing with weak bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach: 2 gallons warm water). Rinse and dry the feeders thoroughly before refilling them. Scrub birdbaths with bleach solution, then rinse them thoroughly and refill, changing water weekly. Clean birdbaths and feeders regularly throughout the season.

For many gardeners, spring is the most exciting time of the year. This is when plants begin to show signs of new life and the garden is full of promise. It's also the time when you can have a lot of influence over the way your garden will look for the rest of the year. March is the time to start -  to ensure your garden is looking at its best for the summer and autumn

A pre-season check is a great idea in March. Are your garden tools ready for the busy gardening season? Check them and fix, sharpen or replace them as necessary. Take a stroll around your yard. Did rabbits, mice or deer damage any plants? Do any need to be repaired or replaced? Start a list for your garden center. Flip through your garden journal and start a list of "must do" projects. By the time your list is done, spring will be here.

Another great task to undertake is pruning. Most trees and shrubs benefit from annual pruning. It keeps them in shape, gets rid of dead and diseased wood and encourages new growth. But not all trees and shrubs should be pruned early, especially the spring flowering ones. Remove dead, damaged, and diseased branches from woody plants. Thin and trim summer-blooming shrubs such as butterfly bush, hydrangea, and most roses, except for old-fashioned once bloomers. Prune cold-damaged wood after plants resume spring growth. Prune spring-blooming shrubs and trees after flowering.

Most roses appreciate a good pruning now, too. Spring rose care depends very much on your climate. Roses grown in warm climates, where roses never go dormant, benefit from a good pruning and the removal of the majority leaves, to shock the rose into thinking it was dormant and needs to wake up and start growing again. Where roses did go dormant, spring care should begin just as the leaf buds begin to plump up. Great time to prune  the climber on the arbor. Floribunda, hybrid tea, climbing, shrub and miniature roses all have different care guidelines.

Many trees,vines and shrubs can be pruned in March, too. Fruit trees, evergreens, many deciduous trees, raspberry canes, grapevines and more can all be trimmed and shaped before new growth begins. Armed with good hand pruners, loppers and a pruning saw, you can tackle all but the biggest of jobs.  It is also a good time to survey the trellis and oblesik - the cold weather can push them out of ground.

March is a great month for trimming and tidying. Now is when you should cut back your ornamental grasses. Hand pruners do a good job on smaller clumps, but hedge trimmers are handy for larger clumps. Hold or tie the old growth with twine and cut the grass 4-6 inches from the ground. Compost the old growth and look for new, green shoots to appear in a few weeks.