Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Clean-Up!

Few people, I'm certain, are as excited about spring clean-up in the garden as I am!

I can't wait to get out there and clean up my flower beds. After the snow melts, when I can actually see the garden beds again, I have to wait, patiently, until spring is truly here before get to work in them.

First on the list of to-do's is removal of fallen leaves and necrotic plant material. This is quick and easy to do if perennial plants have not started growing yet, or at least are very small.

For my garden beds that were pretty much cleared out last winter, I use a blower to blow off leaves that found their way back into the bed before the snow fell.

The trick to this technique is to wait until the leaves are somewhat dry, but the mulch underneath is still wet. That way, only leaves blow off, leaving the mulch behind. Raking removes both leaves and mulch, and that's just a waste to add my mulch to the compost pile.

After blowing off the leaves, it's easy to rake them up and cart them off to the compost heap. Wearing gloves, I can easily remove any dead plant material from the previous season's growth as I work through the garden beds. This, too, can be composted.

It's always a delight to blow off the beds in early spring and find things are coming back to life underneath. One reason I wait to clear the beds is that this leaf litter provides some insulation and protection from early spring frosts.

My biggest project this year is the lawn. Strong winds from the southwest blew unbelievable amounts of pine needles into a portion of my lawn. Normally these fall into the "wild" area, and I leave them be, even raking those few wayward ones into the ground cover. 

But not this year! Deep layers of pine needles from our Scotch pine 'forest' along with pine cones, bark and branches litter the yard. So, I have decided to rake the entire lawn. This is no small task, and indeed, the raking has also extended through the ground cover and throughout the untamed area under the pines.

Believe it or not, there's lawn under here!

Now I'm not talking about a gentle raking here. This is really hard work! After removing the top layer of needles and plant debris, then the vigorous raking begins. I rake hard, and deep, to the soil. The grass isn't growing yet, so I'm not tearing out tender shoots of new growth. This is my way of de-thatching my lawn.

Have you ever used a de-thatcher? Some lawn tractors have an attachment for this purpose. It brings copious amounts of dead grass out of the lawn. Mountains of it actually, that then need to be raked up and composted.

I prefer my method. Though it's hard work, I like to think of it as good exercise. I work until my arms feel like jello, then I take a break. I hope I'm getting stronger and developing stamina for the long summer of landscaping work ahead of me.

It's also very rewarding work. It's easy to see where I've completed the work, and cleared areas look great!

As I go through the ground cover, I am also pulling out all the tiny trees that have rooted there, along with the buckthorn that has sprouted in the mat of plant material.

This is most easily done after a recent rain, when the entire root can be yanked out along with the stem. Slow and steady pulling ensures you don't break off the stem and leave the root. If this happens, the plant will only grow back stronger, with a bigger root system that is more difficult to remove.

So that's my continuing project of clearing away my garden beds and my lawn. It's going to take a long time. I'm resigned to that. But little by little, I'm making progress, and I will be rewarded with a beautiful yard to enjoy all summer.

It's a sunny day so I am going out to do some yard work.

Happy Spring Clean-up, Everyone!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Welcome to My Garden!

It's springtime in Wisconsin, and after the long, very hard winter we've experienced, everyone I know is eager to get out into the yard and work in their gardens. Bitter cold temperatures and frequent snowfalls alternated daily during the short days and long nights of our Midwestern winter.

  It's time to CELEBRATE that Spring has arrived. Already my tiny tete-a-tete daffodils are blooming, and some of the larger daffodils are, too. Some early tulips are showing their flower heads, and it won't be long until they open their blooms to the warming sun.

Spring bulbs are the cheery harbingers of the summer blooms to come. Planted in the fall, after the nights become cold, the bulbs sleep undisturbed under the ground. Bulbs can be planted anytime until the ground freezes. I've been known to be out planting them when snowflakes are already flying in the cold wind. And I've had great success even then.

Most bulbs require a period of freezing, or very cold, weather for their life cycle. Once the spring rains pour into the earth, warming the soil and sending nutrients to the plants, the bulbs send out roots into the soil, and soon thereafter, shoots reach against gravity to break through the hard ground in search of daylight.

What joy we find in that first crocus or daffodil bloom! We celebrate springtime and the end of the bitter cold months of winter by digging in the soil and preparing our gardens for the new growth of summer. I love the smell of the damp earth, and the feel of the soil in my hands. Yep, I've got it bad, and I couldn't be happier. It's finally SPRING!

Happy Gardening, Everyone!