October 25, 2021

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Spring Cleanup in the Perennial Garden

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One of the first chores to undertake in the spring garden is cleanup. For perennials, this mainly consists of cutting back any spent stems and foliage from the previous year and clearing away debris that might have accumulated. You can do this anytime, really, but if you are a bit unsure, wait until you see new growth. That is always a good sign to begin cutting back. Simply remove old stems and foliage back to an inch or two from the plant’s crown, which is where new growth emerges. A pair of pruners is all it takes. You can use either bypass pruners (a favorite of most gardeners) or anvil pruners (which don’t cut as cleanly but cost less to purchase).

But if you want to do it faster, try a battery-powered hedge trimmer. Simply run it over the plant, remembering to stay above the crown. This often gets the job done in a fraction of the time. You can use corded hedge trimmers, but this is more cumbersome and often riskier since you have to continually be sure you don’t accidentally cut the electrical cord hanging from the trimmers.

All disease-free foliage can be added to a compost pile to begin breaking down before it gets added back as mulch in the coming years. If the foliage is showing signs of disease, it’s best to bag it up and throw it away so it poses no risk of contaminating any other plants. Remember that any garden debris will need time to fully break down in the compost pile.

Once this simple chore is done, your garden is ready for more-intense chores like mulching, edging, and planting.

Spring cleanup isn’t complicated, and it sets your garden up for a growing season full of healthy new growth.

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