A Home for Your Gnome

Gardening Advice from a Fan of Fun!

Spring Cleaning

March 4, 2022 | Maintenance

I usually write these posts a bit in advance so who knows? It could be 75 or higher when you read this or we may have caught another early spring dump of the white stuff (I sort of hope it’s the latter since I’ve lived here long enough to know that a blistering summer comes quickly on the heels of our glorious springs).

With another East Tennessee spring on our doorstep, it’s time to shift gears and take our pent-up energies outdoors. The first item on most of our lists is some garden and bed clean-up. I usually begin with the lawn by giving it a light rake (can’t stand the sound or pollution generated by the infernal leaf blower) to herd some winter debris into any nearby bed. Next, I’ll sharpen the shears and go after our inherited liriope (monkey grass) which borders many of our beds. I find cutting off last year’s leaf blades and tossing them on the compost not only helps refresh those plants but also gives me some with which to start building some new soil after the composting action takes place.

There really isn’t any need to rake out old leaves before adding a fresh layer of pine straw. The resulting mini air pockets are really good for a plant’s root system.

I’m generally not too quick to cut back Joe Pye weed or other hollow stemmed perennials because there are often still some beneficial insects who may be slow to get moving from their stems. For these, I’ll wait until I see some green action happening near the base then give them a chop. Most everything else in need of a haircut is fair game, including large woody plants. If you need to do a bit of height control to preserve a view or just to keep something in check, early spring is a great time to be so bold. As most plants are sending energy up from the roots to promote new top growth, they can afford to send some of those good vibes to an area that been pruned to seal off the wound and begin to replenish with some new young growth. Just be reasonable though. If you take too much top growth the plant may have a tough time photosynthesizing and suffer a big decline or even death.

Some plants need a little modification as they age. To preserve a view from the window, I found it necessary to prune off a piece. This is best done in early spring as a plant shifts its energy from root to foliage growth.

Some of your beds may have also been the recipient of wind-blown winter leaves (or perhaps they just overflowed from your gutters?). Again, I put most of mine in the compost bin but I’m careful not to get too tidy. I would suggest that you never rake down to bare soil but rather let some debris remain and if you’re in need of a fresh look simply put a layer of mulch over this replenishing layer. Some call this “lasagna” mulching (layers, get it?)

My water features are another story with regard to spring cleaning that I may cover in another piece but I do change a large portion of the water in the pond (adding some beneficial bacteria to the new water) and I give our “sink fountain” a good cleaning since the birds love to drink from it.

A water change and fresh paint job keep our sink fountain an attractive focal point.

Admittedly, we do have a couple of spots where some invasives such as bamboo and ivy have staked a claim. I’m at the age where I choose my battles and these plants fall into that category. We just keep them in check, not letting them have an inch more of a claim, and coexist.

Cutting back the monkey grass helps tidy up a tired border.

So that’s about it. Shiny up those tools and give them a good sharpening and get ready for spring. To steal a line from one of Andy William’s Christmas serenades, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”