Start the clean-up as weather permits
- Do not rush into spring clean-up. The worst damage is done when the ground is frozen underneath, but it has started to thaw on top. Even if the ground is completely thawed you don’t want to be on it when it is too wet. Working wet ground causes compaction, leaves depressions and alters the soil structure. Take this time to plan and decide what projects are going to be tackled and in what order.
- While the ground is solidly frozen you can get out on days when the temperature is near the freezing mark. Pruning of small trees and shrubs can be done. Remember not to prune spring flowering shrubs such as lilac and forsythia. You would be removing the buds that had formed the year before for this year’s flowers.
- If the snow cover is gone and the surface is dry, you can start cleaning up any debris accumulated over the winter. Leaves that fell off after the last fall raking, trash, and extra mulch can be removed. Don’t remove the mulch from around roses and other plants where it was used for winter protection until the danger of a hard freeze has passed. As you rake and clean, be careful of young, tender plants that may be emerging from the ground.
- Now is a great time to start a compost pile with the debris that you clean up. Take advantage of the situation and produce your own humus. Any diseased plant material should be burned or placed in the trash (depending on your local ordinances) rather than be placed in the compost pile. If you already have a compost pile, take advantage of warm days after the thaw and turn your pile when it is dry enough to do so.
- Cut and prune sedum, ornamental grasses and other perennials that were left for winter interest when the area is dry enough. Any other clean-up and cutting back that wasn’t completed in the fall should be done at the same time. If plants haven’t started to sprout out of the ground, use markers or leave about an inch of stubble so you will know where the plants are. You don’t want to dig up any of your prize plants inadvertently. If any of your plants have heaved out of the ground because of frost heaving, gently tamp them back down with pressure on the ground around them.