Springtime Gardening – Preparation

Sustainable Landscape Tips for March from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, http://plantnebraska.org/

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood  

 Gardening days are coming soon and, once they come, there never seem to be enough hours in a day. But for now there is time to plan, and late winter’s bare landscapes can reveal what and where to plant in the coming year.

Are there bare spots in your landscape? Things you want to screen, either on your own or adjoining properties? Is there good shelter for birds? Dense plantings of trees and shrubs—whether they’re planted as hedges, screens or windbreaks—offer shelter for us as well as for birds and other wildlife. We tend to think of birds as nesting high up in trees but most of them nest just 4-6 feet up from the ground. So dense shrubs can offer visual screens for us and also protect birds from predators.

 What garden chores can be done in early spring?

  • Trees can be pruned from now until leaves begin forming, but spring-flowering shrubs should not be pruned until about a month after they bloom as it may remove this year’s flowers. A general rule of thumb is to prune after the plant blooms. If you have questions about particular shrubs, it’s worthwhile to research them individually to see if they bloom on this year’s growth or last year’s.
  • Many forecasts call for a dry summer, so you may want to think about places where rain barrels, underground pits or bioswales could be placed to gather runoff from roofs or hardscape for use later.
  • Are there bare, hard-to-mow slopes that could be planted with groundcovers to minimize weeding, mowing or other maintenance?
  • Cut back ornamental grasses to make room for new shoots.
  • Clean up garden beds that are piled high with leaves or other residue, particularly in spots where spring bulbs might be buried. Another reward for this chore is the following of robins eager to scratch for worms in newly uncovered soil.
  • If you’re a committed plant-lover who starts plants from seed, you can test leftover seed for germination by placing some seeds between moist paper towels or covering them with a thin layer of soil and keeping them moist. If less than half of them germinate, it’s best to get fresh seed.
  • Once the ground softens enough, you can use a hoe or edging tool to define garden beds.
  • While it’s still a little too cold to enjoy the outdoors, you can bring spring indoors by cutting branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs and gradually moving them from cooler to warmer rooms inside where you can enjoy them.

For release in March
Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

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