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How to Prepare Your Flower Garden For Summer

Spring Gardening: Get Your Garden Ready

I'm excited to present a post from one of my favorite sites, ShelterPop!

With spring gardening just around the corner, here's what you need to do to get your green space ready for planting.

Winter is slowly loosening its grip on us and on our green spaces. Hurry it along with a little spring planning. Here's how to get your garden ready for spring.

The big sweep
If you are like me, then the chances are good that your yard, terrace or balcony has been fending for itself through the winter. The result will be a lot of messy dead leaves, twigs, branches broken by snow or ice, cracked clay pots, dead annuals frozen in place from last year and a general appearance of horticultural bed head.

In order to get into the mood for spring before it has actually arrived and to prepare your garden for the real thing when it does, the first thing to do is head out there and collect all the debris. Then, if you have the space for it, add what you have collected to your compost pile for 2011. Read my previous post about compost to get a better idea of just how useful your own garden and kitchen pickings can be when put back to work in later months.
Pruning the roses
Now is the time. The roses may look like frozen sticks but already they are thinking about putting out little red buds. Use a good pair of sharp pruners. I like Felcos. First remove any dead twigs or branches. Then cut any branches that are intertwined or crossing, as improved air circulation in the summer months wards off mildew. Shrub roses respond very well to hard pruning and the rule of thumb is to cut them back by at least half, snipping at a slant to just above an emerging bud that faces outward (to avoid in-growing branches).

If you have 'climbing' roses (they are really rambling), do not prune them now. In my early gardening days I made this mistake and lost my entire flower crop for that year. Rambling roses mostly bloom on what is called old wood, meaning the canes that the rose produced the previous year. The time to prune ramblers is right after they have bloomed. You can train ramblers now, tying them into place — the more horizontal they grow, the more flowers you will enjoy.
Keep reading for more garden prep advice!
Root pruning
If you have plants growing in containers, some of them, especially shrubs and small trees, may need root pruning every second year or so to prevent them from becoming pot- or root-bound. This is best done when the plant is dormant, so late fall and late winter are the best times for this chore. Remove the plant from the pot and look at the roots. If they are girdling the root ball at the edges of the pot, then it is time to snip. If the roots are very fine and there seems to be more soil than roots at the edge, no pruning is necessary.

With sharp pruners or a small trowel scratch the outside roots loose from the mass. Now cut them away. You can be quite brutal, removing an inch or two from the outside. Re-pot with new compost or soil, and give the plant a good drink.

Perennials and herbs may just need to have the soil around their root balls loosened by hand, with the outer roots pulled away, before being repotted.
Order summer bulbs
While many conscientious gardeners order their summer bulbs in the fall, many bulbs can be planted successfully in early spring for summer bloom. So you still have time to break out the catalogs and let your imagination loose. Tall purple allium, scented lilies, late season Abyssinian gladioli . . . these can be planted after the last frost date in your USDA zone. Some of them are edible: consider planting a crop of garlic for late summer harvest.

Cutting back grasses and perennials
Many grasses look their best after winter snowfall, when they stand like ivory sculptures in the whited-out garden. In order for new growth to emerge neatly in spring, they should be cut right back now. Any perennials that were left uncut at the end of last year should be cut back now, too. Add these trimmings to the nascent compost pile.

Here are a few more of our favorite ShelterPop posts this week:

 

All photos by Marie Viljoen

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