Monthly Archives: March 2010

Spring Burst

Spring Crocus

When a few days of balmy temperatures grace our gardens, nature burst into action and signs of life are everywhere.  Here a small group of early Crocus manage to escape the rabbit’s voracious appetite.  They did not last long, the next day, all were gone!

When the weather permits it is almost impossible to stay away from the perennial beds,  the clean up must begin, and so, I started before the rains came again.  I managed to clean around the crown of the emerging perennials and shrubs removing leaves and mulch and loosening the soil.  This will allow water and air to penetrate the roots.

Grasses that were not cut last fall should be cut now before they start their new growth.  All other leftover perennial growth should be cut just above ground.

Lookout for perennial weeds, they really stand out before they are shaded out by the rest of the plants and  it is relatively easy to pull them, the soil is wet and they are not completely established so they come easy, a small task that will save a lot of work later!

Vines will need to be trained or trimmed before new shoots sprout.

Everything could benefit from a light coating of compost to improve the soil and a layer of mulch or shredded leaves.  If you are able to compost your leaves each year they are an excellent source of organic matter.  They are a natural resource most gardeners today do not harvest.

“Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.” ~Marcelene Cox

On Pruning and Birds

A glorious day here in Western Pennsylvania!  Finally, I was able to get out in the garden and smell the sweet scent of fresh soil.  I spend the entire day in the garden yesterday, enjoying temperatures in the upper 60’s and bright sunshine.  Birds are extremely active this time of the year calling for mates and scouting around for nesting sites and looking for food and water.  If you are able, fill your feeders and water basins from now until plants and insects spring out into the garden, the birds will greatly benefit from alternative sources of food.  It will also encourage them to nest in your trees and shrubs. Nesting boxes should be emptied and cleaned to attract new tenants.

After an extensive walk about the entire garden, it was evident that the first order of business involved some serious pruning.  Early spring is the ideal time to prune trees and summer blooming shrubs while still dormant before the buds break.  Hydrangea, Rose of Sharon, Buddleia (Butterfly bush), Caryopteris (Blue beard), Hypericum (St John’s wort) Privet, Potentilla (Quincefoil), Cornus sp. with brightly colored bark, Sorbaria (False spirea) Perovskia (Russian sage).  Also, I cut back my vines at this time and any dead or broken branches from all trees and shrubs.

I had the Eu0nymus hedge cut yesterday as well, the job too extensive for a home gardener, it took five strong men all morning to cut, clean and chip all the cuttings away.  It is now a manageable 6 feet tall or so and I am confident it will come back and grace me with its red fiery beauty this fall.

“…all through the long winter I dream of my garden.  On the first day of spring I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth.  I can feel its energy and my spirit soars.”   Helen Hayes

Blizzard ’10. The aftermath

Euonymus alatus.

One of the major casualties of this storm was my beautiful “Euonymus alatus” or Winged Euonymus; thirty feet long and fifteen high; it proved to be very vulnerable to the monumental amounts of snow we received at the beginning of February.  Not only did we get 24″ of snow, but we got to keep it for over a month.  It is only now that I can finally see the ground and assess the damage.  This hedge, I am afraid, will have to be cut down. The weight of the snow caused many branches to split and break. A little more patience is needed until the ground is dry and safe to walk on.  Then the pruning can begin.  Euonymus will come back even if it gets cut to a foot above ground.

A pair of  Mugo pines on either side ofthe driveway are completely flattened.  This is an evergreen and will not regenerate new growth when large branches are cut down, for static reasons yet to be assessed, they may have to go. The list goes on and on.  Early March and I should have been out pruning all trees and shrubs, it looks like we are getting a late start on our garden chores this month.

One more thing I like to do now is apply corn glutten to the beds to prevent weed seeds from germinating.  It will save a lot of work later in the spring.

“A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself…”  Margaret Atwood