It’s time to prepare the gardens for spring

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 6, 2016

Two garden munchkins bring interest to the gardens. - Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Two garden munchkins bring interest to the gardens. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hagel Lang

It’s finally time to get out in the gardens and do some early preparation for spring. Last week on a sunny day — even though the temperature was only in the 20s — I gathered my pruners and the garbage cans and headed out to the parts of the gardens where I could safely walk. First on my agenda was cutting back the sweet autumn clematis that grows on the western fence at the back of the yard. All of my clematis get trimmed down to between 12 and 18 inches in early spring to promote better bloom on them.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

Once the clematis were trimmed, I decided to work on the hydrangeas and get the flower blooms from last year off in preparation for new blooms this spring. These are all the panicle variety that I trim only the flower heads off of. The oakleaf hydrangea I don’t trim off because it has never flowered. This variety is a zone 5 hydrangea, and I really don’t expect it to bloom. The foliage is why I grow it. This particular variety I do mulch heavily with both pine bark and leaves to give it extra protection. I have tried trimming it back and leaving it alone to no avail to produce blooms for me, but I just love the burgundy foliage in the fall.

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I am going to try to make my way through the snow on the north side of the house to see if I can reach the highbush cranberry that desperately needs to be cut back drastically. It has really gotten way too large for the location it is in. Now is the time to get out there and get those bushes back into shape whether it is just cutting off broken branches or ones that cross over or a severe pruning before they leaf out. We also need to take the saw and prune off a dead branch on the pagoda dogwood.

Finally I can reach my composters without having to dress in boots and heavy clothing so I can start putting kitchen scraps in them again. If they were situated where I could easily get to them in the winter I would have continued to add things to them, even though they would not be breaking down in the cold temperatures. Composting is one of the best ways to add nutrients back into your gardens. In the fall when you rake or mulch your leaves, put them into the composter. If you don’t, add them to your gardens and then by spring they usually have started to break down. Free and easy is always good, and you are helping the environment.

Yard work won’t commence for some time as once the snow melts I like to wait until we have a nice thunderstorm to settle the ground before I do any raking. I will get branches picked up as soon as I feel the ground won’t become compacted if I walk over it, though. Just being outdoors hearing the birds singing their cheerful songs and feeling the rays of sun on my face makes me want to sing.

Now that the snow is melting Roosevelt is not allowed to chase around in the gardens so he goes out on a leash to do his duty. We are also constantly watching to make sure a skunk is not lurking in the backyard this time of the year. That is another reason he is on a leash in the evening and early morning before it is light enough for me to see what is out there.

Last fall I mulched the gardens heavily with leaves, and in most cases I plan to leave a good layer of them on the gardens. They break down slowly,  add nutrients to the gardens and prevent weeds from growing.

As the snow melts away I have been trying to cleanup under all of the feeders the seed remnants that are covering the ground. Eventually I will take the vacuum out and do a thorough job of getting all of the old seed taken up before the ground is covered in sunflowers. Some, of course, will grow, and I will leave them there to become blooming yellow flowers that attract goldfinch in the summer months.

Haven’t we all been waiting impatiently for the robins to come back announcing that spring has arrived again? Happy spring everyone!

“My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it would be through the Earth’s loveliness.” — Michaelangelo Bounardo


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at