You’ve likely been counting the days until you can get out in the cool but pleasant sunshine after a winter away from your gardening. Spring can be one of the busiest times of the year if you have a garden with many perennial borders and plants. It is also the best time to rejuvenate these borders and gardens, and many of the cleanup tasks can be done in the weeks before you get into planting a food garden.
8 Tasks for Spring Cleanup of Perennial Borders
- Not all your plants will have been cut back in the fall. If you’re like me, you may have left interesting seed heads for some winter interest and to feed wild birds. Others in the perennial border over-winter better with some of the foliage left in place to protect the crown of the plant. Spring cleaning of borders includes carefully removing any old dead foliage. If the ground is still wet, walking on it will compact it and close up the air flow to the roots. Wait until some growth is visible so you don’t damage the emerging stems. Add the old foliage you removed to the compost pile, as long as it is not diseased.
- If you have mulched your perennial borders in the fall for winter protection, you can remove the protective covering so the new shoots can emerge without damage, and add it to your compost. For more tender plants, leave the mulch in place until all nights are frost free.
- Shear back the rockery perennials like aubretia and thyme, removing any old blooms or seed heads and some of the foliage. Cutting them back will encourage new bushy growth and later on, flowering.
- Ornamental grasses are becoming a common element in landscaping and perennial borders. The seed heads of the fall blooming ones like Miscanthus are often left to give winter interest. To rejuvenate these grasses, chop them back to about six inches before they start their spring growth.
- Early spring is a good time to divide perennials that are becoming too crowded or overgrown. Dividing perennials allows the compacted root systems more space to grow as well as giving you new plants to expand your borders or to give away. Each plant requires its own method of division, so know how to divide each type you grow in your gardens.
- Dig up and divide large clumping perennials like hostas, yarrow, phlox and perennial lobelia into individual plants. Replant each section in good humus rich soil and water well as you set it in place. Spring is also a good time to relocate any that may have outgrown their old spot or that require better conditions.
- In the case of summer-flowering iris, new fan shaped arrangements of leaves will appear along the rhizome. Dig up the entire rhizome and cut it into healthy sections that contain both leaves and roots. If any roots show signs of iris borer, dispose of them in the garbage, along with any dead foliage. Replant the healthy rhizomes in a new location.
- This is a good time to get rid of any weeds while they are still small and shallowly rooted. They are much easier to pull when the soil still holds winter moisture. Early weed control saves you hours of work later on in the growing season.
Before you know it, the weather will warm, your perennial borders will be thriving. All your newly refreshed plants will have a healthy head start on gorgeous blooms throughout the summer!