Expert gardener’s advice on waking up your garden for spring

The calendar says it’s time to wake up the garden, but wait. Do you dare wade into sopping wet yards and flower beds after days of heavy rain in West Michigan?

Tony England says go ahead.

The Meijer Gardens horticulturist, with a bachelors in horticulture from Michigan State University, works in all kinds of weather conditions, including soggy. “I haven’t seen any differences,” he said taking a break from his gardening duties on a drizzly morning. “It’s only a problem if you’re talking about heavy equipment compacting the soil.”

In fact, he said, it’s a great time to dig weeds, those dandelions pull out easily from wet soil.

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Tony England, horticulturist, fills pots in the Cook Entry with spring bulb flowers.

So after you pull on rubber boots and gloves, what should you have on your spring cleanup list?

Tony offers his list of chores:

— Rake out dead leaves you didn’t get last fall. They can harbor diseases and pests.
— If you want mulch, he prefers shredded bark mixed with compost that will feed the soil as it breaks down.
— Deadhead flowering bushes, such as hydrangea, that were left for winter interest.
— Trim off spent blooms from daffodil, tulip and hyacinth but don’t cut away food-producing green leaves and stems. If they are too messy for you, cut them half way back and wait for die back before removing completely.
— Cut down ornamental grasses. Trim them to their crown, if they have one, leaving stalks a few inches from the ground. Those without a crown can be cut even closer to the ground.

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Cut last year’s ornamental grasses down to their crowns or close to ground if they don’t have crowns.

— Don’t prune spring-blooming plants until after they are done blooming, including dogwoods, lilacs and spring-blooming spirea. But don’t wait too long. Some set next year’s buds in late summer or early fall.

 

So gardeners, get ready to get muddy. You can’t blame the wet weather anymore.

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Leslie E. Tassell Engligh Perennial and Bulb Garden filled with spring blooms

Article and photos by Nancy Crawley

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