When the weekend weather forecast predicts partly sunny skies with high temps between 40 and 50° it is going to be a great weekend to get outside and get some early spring gardening chores checked off the list. If the soil is too moist to get in the garden to cut back perennials, we can at least reach our pruners as far as we can reach from the edges. There is something about perennial cleanup that just makes it feel like spring, don’t you agree?
Here are some more early spring gardening chores.
Remove Greens from Containers & Window Boxes
It is time to bid farewell to the greens that filled our window boxes and pots. Mine are still looking pretty darn good, if I do say so myself, but it’s out with the winter and in with the spring! Cut the greens into smaller pieces and add them to compost bins. Pack up artificials and store them for next year. At my house, they go into the abyss we call our basement.
Prune Broken Branches & Pick Up Sticks
A quick walk around the yard will reveal branches broken in winter storms. Call in professionals, like the folks at Davey Tree, to help with very large branches or branches that can’t be safely reached from the ground. When pruning broken branches yourself, cut them all the way back to the main trunk just outside the branch collar of the tree. Cut properly, the tree will quickly heal itself.
Branches larger than 2 inches in diameter that can’t be removed with one quick cut should be pruned in sections. Begin by removing the end of the branch to make it lighter. Then use the three-cut method to remove the remainder of the branch. First, make a small cut an inch or so deep on the underneath side near the branch collar. This cut reduces the chance of bark tearing down the trunk when the next cuts are made. The second cut is outside the first but all the way through the branch. The final cut is made just outside the branch collar.
As long as you are bending over to pick up newly-pruned branches, pick up all the sticks that were blown down during winter winds. I have a yard full of silver maples, weak-wooded trees that generously provide sticks for our compost bins and fire pit, so picking up sticks is a big job.
Whenever I talk about my gardener toe touches – bend over, pick up stick, stand, bend over, pick up stick, stand, and so on, I get comments from well-meaning folks about my improper body mechanics and suggesting squatting is preferred. But my bad knees prohibit squatting so I get the job done however my body permits.
Clean the Gutters
Remove all the leaves and debris that fell into gutters last fall and winter. Heavy spring rains are on their way!
Clean Patio Furniture, Patios & Decks
Spring cleanup is not just for our perennial and shrub borders. Our decks and patios need spring cleaning, too. And it’s easier to do before the furniture is back in place and the pots are planted with pansies.
Start by removing all the leaves, sticks and dirt that blew in during the winter. I also have a lot of birdseed hulls to clean up since I lure birds for closer viewing by throwing handfuls of seeds on the deck outside a sliding glass door. A strong spray from the hose will finish the job.
Removing cobwebs from soffits, cleaning outdoor light fixtures, and washing the sliding glass doors and windows that can be reached from the deck are next on the list.
With the area clear and clean, it’s time to give the patio furniture a good cleaning. A simple wipe down with a damp cloth may be enough. If your furniture needs a good scrubbing, make sure you use a product made for your type of furniture. On my faux wicker furniture, I use a stiff brush and a little gentle dish detergent mixed in water, and then rinse it with the garden hose.
Another one of our decks is decorated with metal furniture, shelves, pots and a bench. I wipe down these pieces with a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water. After they dry, I spray them with matte sealer to prevent rust.
Put out the Welcome Mat for Birds
The birds are returning and will be looking for places to nest and spend the summer. Make sure birdhouses are firmly mounted in a spot out of the reach of predators and have protection from hot afternoon sun. Remove debris and wash the inside, using plain water and a stiff brush. Avoid using chemicals.
A source of water is important for birds to drink and bathe in. Scrub out birdbaths before filling them with fresh water. Position them so birds can quickly escape or find shelter from predators.
Provide birds with nesting materials.
• String, twine or yarn made of natural fibers (not synthetic) – 3 to 6-inch pieces
• Tiny twigs fallen from trees or shrubs
• Dog or cat hair make a soft lining for nests. (When our Riley gets her spring shave, we have lots to share with the birds!)
• Old coco liners – birds love to peck at them!
Get Out the Hoses
Do you remember where you put hoses after they were drained and rolled up last fall? Find them and reattach them. It’ time to start watering fall-planted trees and shrubs if we don’t get enough natural rainfall. And it’s almost time to start planting!
Have a great weekend in the garden everyone. Get outside and garden with me!