I love Spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden- Ruth Stout
Spring is the time of renewal; we emerge from our dwellings coaxed by the promise of warmer weather and fresh breezes. So many moments take place in Spring; minor bulbs such as crocus, grape hyacinths, snowdrops take the stage with the first flowers that throw caution to the weather including those late season snows!
The earliest buds of Magnolias, Amelanchier and Lilacs pledge to sweeten the air with their fleeting blooms. We have been so cloistered for the past year that any outdoor time would be a welcomed panacea.
So where to begin in the garden? Did you clean up last fall? Maybe you like to wait and do your garden cleaning in Spring? There has been a lot of murmurings lately on how soon to take up Spring cleaning in the garden. Most popular posts are about saving the insects that winter over in hollow stems.
Here are a few tips to help those insects emerge safely, if you are like me and find you just can’t wait to clean up the garden.
Many pollinators, like bees and butterflies, overwinter in dead plant material. They ride out the cold weather there and emerge in spring to do their good work. By removing dead material too early, you risk destroying many of these pollinators. A good rule of thumb is to wait until temperatures are consistently about 50 F. This will help protect habitat in the spring and ensure you have a robust and healthy pollinator population and overall garden ecosystem.
When clearing out old stems, look for bee activity, such as ends plugged with mud or plant material. Leave those in place for nesting bees. If you pick out old stems that may have bees nesting, move them to a corner of the garden for a few extra weeks so that bees can emerge. You can leave them on the ground or tie them in bundles to hang from trees or fences.
Watch out for chrysalises and cocoons when pruning back shrubs and other woody material. If a branch hosts one of these, leave it in place for now. Butterflies, ladybugs, assassin bugs, and other beneficial insects nest in piles of leaf matter. Move leaf piles to a corner of the garden and leave undisturbed for a while.
Do not smother the soil in beds with mulch until it is generally warm to avoid blocking in-ground nesting bees and other insects.
I prefer to clean my garden and do an initial weeding as soon as weather permits. These are the moments I reconnect with each plant, assessing its health from the past winter, making note of whether it needs to be divided, or moved to a better location, removing spent stems and dead wood from any shrubs. My reasoning for this is mainly once it really warms up, we all want the instant gratification of blooming flowers! I want to plant then rather than the task of clean up.
All the while I take in the sounds of which birds have returned for the year, the sweet smell of the damp earth, it is a time for reflection. Spring is so wonderful but fleeting, so connect to your gardens often and pause to enjoy all it has to offer.
Looking for more gardening info? You can stop in at Avid Gardener in Cambridge WI.