Spring Garden Chores

Plan Your Work And Play For Spring

Spring usually goes from: “It’s never, never, never going to arrive” to “I’m weeks behind schedule” in 17 nano seconds or less. Gardeners are body-slammed from the tedium of winter house arrest into a frantic, aching rush tackling endless chores.  

But don’t panic. We are here to help with suggestions based on our experience of tasks that are best done sooner than later. One of the first things you should decide is what to-dos can wait for later in the season. Pick your battles wisely. For instance, if it’s too wet, cold or the schedule too packed, skip some of those early vegetables and plant them in late summer for fall harvest. Here are other ideas.

Michael’s suggestions 

  • Take photos of borders and beds to see what areas need filling when bulb planting time arrives. Memories fade almost as quickly as the snowdrops and hyacinths.
  • Apply weed preventer to reduce tedious work in pavements, beds and borders. Organic and nonorganic products are available, but nothing is 100 percent effective. Unless arctic conditions are expected to persist for weeks, I  start in late winter with the brick patio and walk. These face south and warm quickly. The gravel drive is next and then beds and borders. Following label instructions, apply just before rain and save watering the products in. Record-setting precip last year — much in the form of gulley-washing downpours — mean more frequent treatment. (Caveat – preventers don’t distinguish between desired self-sown flowers and weed seeds.)
  • Drop everything and schedule an escape to a nearby state park, botanic garden or stretch of lovely country driving. Spend a few hours or better a day  savoring the joy of spring fever. What a waste of time, you’re probably thinking. If poet William Wordsworth had spent that fateful spring day planting potatoes and cabbages instead of “wandering lonely as a cloud” among the “host of golden daffodils, all he would have had was a crossed-off to-do list. Instead, we have his timeless ode to spring and some of it glorious flowers. Your spirit needs lifted just as much as his. Hit the road.

Debra’s suggestions:

  • Now is the time to weed. Spring rains soften the soil which allows annual and perennial weeds to be removed; roots and all. Weeding can be a morning meditative practice. It is also an opportunity to roam your gardens with a cup of tea in one hand and a weed bucket in the other. Just make sure the weeds go into the bucket and not your tea.
  • Start your seeds for melons, squash, kohlrabi, and cabbages inside. Direct seed into the garden crops that like cooler soils: peas, lettuces, mesclun mixes, tatsoi, mizuna, kale, collards, dill, and cilantro. Transplant the tomato and chili seedlings that you started in early March into larger pots.
  • Visit the garden center to shop for cold-loving herbaceous plants like pansies and violas, primroses, and snapdragons.  These spring beauties add early color to borders and containers.  Even try mixing them with edibles like lettuce and kale for your spring containers.  Cuttings of willow and yellow-twig dogwood add further interest.
  • Watch for the early ground bees. Their small burrows are easy to step on and crush
  • Sit for a moment or three and marvel at the life that is emerging from the ground. And remember to breathe…

Teresa’s suggestions

  • Rework tired beds.  On a cool overcast day, dig everything from the bed and place the plants on a tarp in the shade.  Divide overgrown plants, toss unhealthy ones, move some to other beds or give others away. Work compost into the bed then replant the existing plants and add others as needed.
  • Edge beds while the ground is soft.  A clean edge adds definition to borders and helps control weeds. See Michael’s post on edging.
  • Prune dead, damaged and diseased branches from shrubs. After spring-flowering shrubs bloom, they can be pruned for size and shape. Also, remove suckers from crabapples and the base of trees like magnolias.
  • Remove invasive plants from natural areas, perhaps a wooded area at the back of your property.  Look for bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard, multi-flora rose, lesser celandine and autumn olive – all aggressive plants that crowd out other valuable plants and wildflowers. For tips, see http://ohiodnr.gov/invasiveplants or join an invasive plant volunteer work day at a local park.

10 Villianous Plants

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

By Teresa Woodard

So, your kind neighbor calls to offer some free plants. Do you accept willingly?  Well, that depends.  Many well-intentioned gardeners like to share their plants, but often their plants can be more of a nuisance than a blessing as they proliferate and crowd out the other plants in your garden.  Pretty soon, all you have is a garden of neighbor’s lovely gift.

If a neighbor knocks at the door with an armload of any of these freebies, carefully consider the offer:

Aggressive Plants ­– Many of these plants can be planted in an area where they are contained or where an area needs filled.  For example, I grow mint in a container and plant cleome in a bed where I can easily thin the abundance of new seedlings that return each year from this self-sower.

Bachelor button (Centaurea montana): I gained my first bachelor button at a plant swap.  I love the cottage look this plant brings to the garden but get frustrated by having to pull an abundance of new plants that emerge in many unwanted spaces.

English ivy

English ivy

English Ivy (Hedera helix):  This gifted plant has taken over many of my perennials including my beloved Lady’s Mantle.  Good alternatives to this vine are sweet woodruff, wild ginger and wood aster (Eurybia divaricata).

Mint (Mentha):  Mint’s great to have on hand to add to tea and mojitos, but its roots send up unwanted shoots if not kept in a container.

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata):  My husband was drawn to the amazing blooms on this vine, but its aggressive nature has become a bane in our garden.  Planted along our garden fences, the vine’s spreading roots send up new shoots throughout the garden, and these new vines rapidly take over if not pulled.IMG_1548

Spider Flower (Cleome):  These big spider-shaped blooms are followed by seed pods loaded with lots of seeds.  I plant them in a cutting garden but ruthlessly thin the new seedlings.

Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia): I innocently planted this “spiller” in a container garden and found it jumped to a nearby bed where it quickly spread.

Invasive plants – Several plants are listed as “invasive” in that they threaten other native plants in natural areas.  Environmentally responsible gardeners should keep these harmful plants from their landscape.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicariaand its cultivars and hybrids): This popular magenta-spiked garden flower grows three to seven feet tall and has a dense bushy growth of one to 50 stems. Purple loosestrife spreads aggressively by underground stems (rhizomes) and can produce as many as a million seeds per plant. Supposedly sterile strains of L. virgatum will outcross with this plant and produce seeds.

Lesser celladine (Ranunculus ficaria): This buttercup-like plant forms a green mat and chokes out other spring wildflowers. And it leaves behind small tubers when you pull it from the soil which explains its masses of plants.

Creeping Jenny -- a great in a container but aggressive in a flower bed

Creeping Jenny — a great in a container but aggressive in a flower bed

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