Start those garden chores now, and pace yourself

  • By Lee Reich / For The Associated Press
  • Wednesday, March 14, 2007 9:00pm
  • Life

Gardening can be so much fun this time of year. The key to making it fun is to pace yourself – starting soon and doing a little at a time, rather than waiting and then being inundated with too much to do all at once.

Some ideas:

  • If you feel like tidying up, now is the time to do it. Cut back old, dead stalks of perennial flowers; dig or pull out weeds or any remaining spent vegetables; rake debris off the lawn; and prune away dead or diseased branches from trees.
  • Most in need of pruning are shrubs, but wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs such as lilac, forsythia and mock orange until just after they finish blooming or you’ll be cutting off stems that would have bloomed.

    Except for formal shrubs, which get sheared, shrubs respond best to loppers; use this tool to cut some of the oldest stems, which no longer flower well, right down to the ground.

  • Your plants may be hungry. Ideally, get a soil test to find out what fertilizers might be needed.

    If you’ve enriched your soil over the years by digging in or mulching with plenty of organic materials, such as compost and leaves, your soil likely has plenty of nutrients. Otherwise, spread some organic or synthetic fertilizer over planted areas according to rates specified on the package.

  • Mulch management actually can be exciting as you peek beneath any mulch laid atop perennial flowers to watch for new growth. When you see it, pull the mulch back and tuck it in around the plants.

    If you’ve mulched any area where you plan to plant vegetables or annual flowers, remove that mulch now so that the ground gets warmed by exposure to the sun. Put it back in place to conserve soil moisture after warm weather settles in.

  • Finally, the most fun: Planting!

    Who can resist the lure of all those colorful flowers and potted plants offered for sale in spring. Do try to keep your wits about you, making sure the site is suitable for any plants you set in the ground – and envisioning the woody plants you may see there after 20 or more years of growth.

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