Spring Cleanup Tips

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Spring has arrived along the Front Range and we’ve already had some warm weather days that may have got you thinking about getting out into the garden. Before you do, take a look at our tips on spring cleaning in your perennial garden. We’ll cover why you may want to hold off on cleanup for longer than you may think, and tips for watering and propagating.

1. Consider waiting for consistent warm weather before doing all of your spring cleaning so as not to disturb pollinator habitat.

The first warm, sunny day of the year can easily make us want to get out in our gardens and clean up all of last season’s dead growth, but these first nice days of the year sprinkled throughout the month of April often don’t mean the warm weather is here to stay. Until we have consistent warm weather (including night time temps), pollinators will prefer to stay hunkered down in the leaves and dead plant matter of last year to protect them from the inevitable late-season last frost or freezing temps. Check out this article from the Xerces Society on their cues for when it’s okay to start your spring gardening.

If you have a large garden area, it may be unrealistic to wait until mid-May or so to complete all of your spring cleanup, but we recommend leaving some areas untouched by a rake or pruners to allow these important pollinators to continue their slumber until they’re safe to wake up.

2. Take a look at your Garden Info Sheet to see which plants could use some attention in spring.

In general, it’s good practice to leave your plants standing for the winter, and then cut them back to their new growth come spring. If you want to divide your plants to contain spreading or to propagate, spring is also a great time to do so. Look at our past blog written by Miss Jean on division and propagation for more info here! 

It’s also important to note that when it’s time to clean up old growth from last year, there’s a chance (depending on the plants) that you won’t see a lot of new growth on your perennials just yet. So don’t fret if you’re wondering why there’s not a lot of green in your landscape! Like may of us first thing in the morning, perennials may take a little while to wake up in early spring.

3. Lightly rake beds around perennials to move around and dry out wet leaves and other dense materials that can smother plants.
4. Be sure to continue watering until it’s warm enough to turn your sprinklers on.

April is likely still too early to turn your sprinkler system on for the season as Colorado will likely have below-freezing nights, sometimes through early May, so it’s important to make sure your plants are receiving enough water right now. Water your plants when the temps outside are above 40 degrees, we’ve had a few dry days in a row, and there isn’t any snow covering your beds.

5. As you walk around your garden beds, take the time to weed a little bit at a time.

After snow melts, the ground is often very soft making it easier than usual to pull weeds. Pulling weeds a little at a time early in the season is a great way to try and mitigate being overwhelmed with weeds in the summer.

6. If you didn’t do so in the fall, make sure your tools (garden shears, shovels, etc.) are clean and ready to be used.

For more tips on how to clean and properly care for your tools visit this article written by CSU Master Gardeners.