Muscari, narcissus, forsythia – it's all happening! Spring has arrived extra early this year (at least in Atlanta) with our neighbor's giant Magnolia soulangeanas and our own garden's crocuses reaching their peak blooms over a week earlier than last year. It's an unsettling change, but also an unmistakable reminder that it's time to get back outside and into the garden. Here's some of what I've been up to at Greenleaf Garden.
For this year's seed-sowing I'm doing a big mix of flowers (both for the cutting garden and for the garden beds), herbs and veggies with an extra emphasis on extra easy-to-grow varieties. I've ordered seeds from the usual suspects including Floret Flowers, Johnny's Selected Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and have been bringing them along first indoors and then in our cold frame as they mature. Here's a post all about what I'm growing from seed this year.
Pruning Shrubs + Trees
Pruning is so important and impactful for a number of plants, but in particular hydrangeas and roses. I've given all of mine a hard cutting back to about 18" high and removed a lot of excess small branches and twigs to promote new growth on the strongest branches and better air flow. I also pruned the clethra and aronia shrubs to promote a bushier habit and removed crossing limbs in the birch and serviceberry trees.
Cutting Back Old Growth
I like to wait until overnight temperatures are consistently in the high 40's or above before cutting back any old, dead growth from last season. I also leave behind a lot of the leaf litter which is mostly from oaks in our garden. The reason being that all this acts as coverage for slumbering insects who rely on it until it's warm enough for them to break hibernation. The bonus is that the leaf litter will break down and give the soil an extra boost. I'm a bit of a neat freak and a busybody by nature, so holding off on this is a personal challenge. Doing a daily search for early signs of life (like the red shoots of peony breaking through above) is a great distraction.
Fertilizing the Lawn
Both the front and backyard lawns have grown in beautifully after being reseeded last fall. We're putting down Milorganite – a slow-release fertilizer – to help strengthen the roots and give the lawns a boost as they push out new growth in the coming months. This will help the lawns increase their tolerance for various stressors such as drought and potential fungal or insect attacks (which we experienced on an apocalyptic scale late late summer).
I always like to add fresh mulch to the garden beds to help crisp them up ahead of spring growth and also give an extra bit of protection against incoming weeds. Note that it's much easier to put mulch down before your plants start growing back rather than later when there is a lot more foliage to contend with.