A Little Patience Please

Gardeners beware, spring hasn't sprung just yet so fight the temptation and keep those plants protected until May.


It feels like spring outside. Temperatures will trick many of us into believing winter is over. I have my fingers crossed that it is. However, if I begin garden cleanup chores meant for May in March, chances are I’ll get bitten — by frost.

Tempting as it is to remove winter protection from plants, trim hedges and clip shrubs – resist. I know the Daffodils have popped up and some are even blooming, but Mother Nature could still send a mighty blast of winter weather our way.

Last fall’s brown leaves, pine branches or extra mulch may look ugly, but they often protect tender green shoots underneath on perennials and bushes. Removing that insulation now could damage the baby growth if winter returns.

Even though the gardening tools beckon from the shed to come out and play early — again, resist. Pruning shrubs now could result in weakened health later.

There is still a lot to do to fulfill the drive to garden and create a good excuse to enjoy the amazing weather. March is a perfect time to cut ornamental grasses back to 3-6 inches tall. Stay tuned for a how-to in an upcoming Alice’s Garden Advice video.

Get out and weed. Most self-sown weeds in our garden are tougher than our intentional plantings and are already growing with gusto. Get a jumpstart on weeding while they are easier to see since many perennials are dormant and below the ground.

Breaking the dead stalks off herbaceous plants (ones that die to the ground) such as Sedum and False Iris (Baptisia) is safe and satisfying in this unusually warm winter month.

Plant peas, lettuce and other cold weather vegetables. It is tempting to get outside and clean up the entire garden in this gorgeous weather, but wait until the real May for some tasks. Remember not to chop any spring blooming shrubs, now or in May.

DHK March 15, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Hi Alice, Great article! I have a quick question. When can you prune butterfly trees and hydrangeas? Diane
Alice Blair March 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Hi DHK - You can prune butterfly trees in the spring - April is a good time. The hardy bushes can take a hard chop. If you want to control size, cut them down to 6-12" tall. In good seasons, they can grow 6 feet tall from the ground. Hydrangeas are a different story. What kind do you have?
Alice Blair March 15, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Also - Try reading this article http://durham.patch.com/articles/to-chop-or-not-to-chop


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