Early season landscape tasks

By Natalie Boyack, Conservation Garden Park

As spring gets closer and the weather starts warming up, it’s time to begin working outside in your landscape again. This includes clean up tasks that you didn’t get to in the fall, or those that you started, but were unable to complete before winter kicked in.

Cut Back Perennials

One thing that should be done in spring is cutting back certain plants. For most perennials, it doesn’t matter if they are cut back in the spring or fall, but if you didn’t get to it in the fall, you’ll want to do it now. The exceptions are the perennials that don’t lose their leaves in the winter (think buckwheat, some woody shrubs, etc.). These can be raked through, cleaned up, and have the dead removed, but cutting them to the ground is not typically a good idea. Cutting down the dead plant stocks from the previous year, before the perennial starts growing again makes this task much easier. Avoid cutting into the new leaves whenever possible; hand pruners are a great tool for this task.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

This is also a great time to cut back any ornamental grasses that you did not cut back in the fall. Again, don’t cut evergreen grasses — all they need for maintenance is a good raking through to remove some of their brown blades.

If you have cool season grasses that you did not get cut back in fall, the earlier you do it in the spring, the better. Ideally, these grasses should be cut back before they start greening up. If you don’t get to it before then, cut just above where the green leaf blades are and do your best to rake out some of the dead stocks from last year.

Warm season grasses don’t start growing until a little later in the season, but the same principles apply. Since warm season grasses don’t green up quite as early, they can be a good option to leave up through the winter to provide interest and food for birds.

Apply Pre-emergent

If you’re interested in doing so, spring is a good time to apply pre-emergent herbicides. Keep in mind that pre-emergents are only effective against weeds that come up from seed, like annual or biennial weeds. If you are using pre-emergent, the timing of application is very important. It is often suggested that it be applied while the Forsythias are in bloom. Make sure to follow the label for directions on how to use these products.

General Cleanup

Other spring clean-up tasks can include raking up leaves, adding more mulch as needed, and generally making things look nice throughout your yard. If you have a lot of planting beds, this may be more time-intensive than most other maintenance throughout the year. However, once this is completed your maintenance through the season will be much less.

Visit the Conservation Garden Park during spring to watch the garden workers at these tasks. They can answer any questions you may have.