A Delightful Mess!

My yard is a delightful mess right now. Delightful because there’s a ton of moisture which makes pulling weeds and tidying up perennials much easier. A mess because…well it was a rough winter. Either way, it’s time to get ready for the yardening season!

Don’t let the task of tackling your yard and garden this spring be daunting. Work in sections to break it down. We started in our yard over the weekend on the back, south side of our house. The north side is still buried under snow and that was my perfect excuse to leave that parcel for another day!

Begin by removing debris that has blown in over the winter. Leaves, twigs, candy wrappers- you name it and it seems to find its way into the garden with our winter winds. Then move on to pruning.

Prune back any perennials that you let go over the winter. Lop these back to within a few inches of ground level. Although it seems harsh, it will actually benefit the plant because it opens the plant up so that new shoots can get sunlight and air. The brown material served its purpose of protecting that root system through the winter months and on many of them you should see some new, green shoots beginning to emerge as you cut. A benefit of all of the wet weather this year was that much of the dead material pulls away quite easily.

There are a few exceptions. Woody perennials like Russian Sage should be cut back only about two thirds, leaving a third of the plant undisturbed. If you cut it all the way back, you will eliminate all of the new growth that comes back from the existing wood, and if you cut it back too severely you could kill your plant, so be careful.

Then move on to the trees and shrubs. Pruning classes are available at most nurseries and other places so if you are nervous about doing this, taking a class is a good way to learn.  If you have been looking closely, you’ve seen that there are a lot of split, broken limbs around this year from the weight of the heavy snows we’ve had. Although there is more to it, the basic idea is to remove any dead or diseased wood from both trees and shrubs and to remove any limbs that have been damaged or split through the winter. Be sure to make a clean cut.

You want to wait to prune roses until the buds have swollen and a fairly large bud is visible. If you go ahead and prune before they’re ready, then most likely you’ll have some die back during upcoming cold spells and you may end up having to prune them again. Last year was much warmer so we started earlier, but for most of the Cortez area, you should be able to do this in late March into early April this year.

Pruning sealer can help to seal and protect the cuts from pests and the introduction of disease into the place where you pruned, but in our high, dry climate the cut will usually heal on it’s own. Using the pruning spray could serve to seal disease into your plant so we don’t recommend it.

The bright, happy sunshine is a joy to bask in after so many cloudy days and reminds me that it’s time to get out in the yarden and get down and dirty- you’ll be glad you did!