The Garden Year
Early Spring-- Now is when we can get busy!
We start with the pruning and clean up of winter debris-- including excess mulch! Once that is out of the way, we can see what's coming up and where we need to fill in. Now it's time to seek out fresh plants and get them in the ground so they are established before hot weather descends. Avoid the temptation to over stimulate lawns with 'quick fix' chemical fertilizer in favor of top dressing with compost, which will benefit the microbes (the native fauna and flora that support all the higher life forms in our environment) as well as making a healthier turf. Wait to patch or seed lawns until night temps stabilize (mid May).
We recognize this season when there's no longer danger of frost (mostly) and tender annuals and tropicals can get planted. Most bulbs have flowered and may need some grooming-- but no haircuts! The leaves produce the food for next year's blossoms, so put in some annuals or ferns to 'cloak' them, but no braids, no rubber bands, no folding! Please! Compost tea or top dressing makes robust plants without succulent growth preferred by pests and disease.
Hopefully a good time to catch your breath! Most of the heavy lifting has been done, so now we focus on the big W's-- Watering, Weeding and Weather. Most modern plants don't require as much staking as old-fashioned varieties but now is the time to inspect for congested growth and pinch, prune and/or train to open up interiors for light and air circulation, and reduce 'sail effect' that can lead to toppling in wind and rain. Now is a good time to fill in gaps with fall-blooming annuals to keep the good times rolling!
Another window of opportunity to tend to sparse lawns. Lime is especially helpful in our area and a soil test to verify need and rates of application is appropriate. Spring flowering shrubs and trees should be pruned, if needed, before bud set for next year. We enjoy the those quiet moments when everything comes together and we can feel part of our creation.
As the Sun gets lower in the sky, we see the effects in the vigor of some plants, but it's all part of the cycle we need to embrace. With cooler weather, we can shift gears and set the stage for End of Year Show. Better done early, getting the Fall bloomers in place in time to establish a dazzling garden, not one tattered and faded.
Housekeeping becomes the name of the game; staying ahead of falling leaves and cutting back finished annuals and perennials before wet weather turns everything to a soggy mass which can be overwhelming. Better to turn proactive and 'harvest' tender growth and compost it to capture all the nutrients so they can be recycled back in to the planting beds and cut the cycle of pest/disease reproduction. Hygiene is just as important for our green spaces as for ourselves. Another reason to clear debris is to make bulb and other late planting easier (you also want to be able to avoid planting on top of existing plants).
In a perfect world, this is the time to step back (with a warm beverage) and survey the structure of the world we've created, now that leaves are gone and we can see how everything fits together; in reality, mostly we're still hustling to get all those end-of-season chores finished.
Time to check for ice and snow damage in trees and shrubs before emerging plants and bulbs make walking in planting beds difficult. Loosen or "fluff" mulch on plants so they can emerge freely. Inspect beds and lawn areas for drainage issues and note any low, waterlogged areas. Catalogs provide planting ideas and temptation for new projects.