After a brutal winter like this one, the answer to the title question will be obvious now that the snow has melted. It’s amazing what kind of debris was lurking underneath that snow.
While you remove debris, keep your eyes peeled for damage to your valuable plants. There may be dead tree and shrub branches and twigs on the ground and damaged branches still on the tree or shrub. All of these branches should be removed.
Separate debris, tossing trash into the trash and organic debris like fallen leaves and dead foliage from planting beds in the compost bin. After you’ve removed all the trash, wait for a day when the ground has dried enough for you to walk on it and remove excess mulch from your beds, if you spread extra mulch last fall. Once you are down to no more than three inches, take a rake and fluff up the mulch. This will help it do its job better. If you didn’t spread any extra winter mulch, just fluff the mulch. If it has begun decomposing, you may have to add another inch or so to bring it up to the proper level.
While checking for dead and damaged plants, also be alert to animal damage. Deer damage is obvious. They chew the ends off branches at about eye level. You’ll have to look a bit to see rodent damage. Field mice burrow under the snow and nibble on bark at the base of trees and shrubs. The snow hides them nicely, but when the snow melts, their little teeth marks are very visible. Rabbits also chew on the bark, but usually on top of the snow. Given the amount and duration of our snow, we expect to see a considerable amount of animal damage.
Look down at the lawn to see if there are any fungal diseases. If there are and they are small, you can rake out the dead grass and the surrounding grass will fill in the spots. Larger dead spots will have to be reseeded after you rake them out.
Your ornamental grasses have done their job for the year, so it’s time to cut them back. Using your tool of choice, cut them back very close to the ground – usually two to four inches. The lower you can cut them, the better. You cut them back to let sunlight reach the new grass that will soon sprout up among the stubble. As for tools of choice, I have used everything from hand pruners to high quality manual hedge clippers to electric hedge clippers. As for the old canes, they go in the compost pile.
If you didn’t split your overgrown perennials last fall, do it as part of your spring cleaning. Dig up overgrown perennials and split the roots into four sections. Replant one section in the hole you just dug. Replant the others in another part of your garden or give them to friends or to a charity plant sale. We hope you don’t waste any valuable perennials, but leaves or any other debris that dropped off should go right to the compost pile.
Last but now least, neaten up hardscapes. Sweep walks, drives, decks and patios. If they are wearing a coating of winter debris, wash it off. If you put your statuary in winter storage, this would be a good time to put it back out for the summer.
Why clean up your yard this spring? Because it needs it. You can summarize this blog into a bulleted list and use it as a “To Do” list.