With gradually-improving weather and daylight hours getting longer, spring is in the air. Look outside and you’ll be sure to find your bulbs growing, trees and shrubs starting to bud and life bursting forth throughout the garden. As you start your spring clean-up around the yard and make the first gardening to-do lists, here are some early-season jobs you’ll want to accomplish.
First, it’s time for spring pruning. Keep in mind, though, that some plants should not be pruned at this time, so before you get lopper-happy, make your game plan. Right now is not the time to prune many spring-blooming shrubs. The best time to cut back those plants is right after they bloom. So, if you have rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs, forsythia, pieris, or any number of other spring bloomers, wait until later this spring to prune.
Now is a great time, though, to start pruning most of the other plants around your yard. Depending on how old your rose bushes are and how diligent you’ve been with pruning over the years, you should plan to cut roses back to six inches to a foot tall; additionally, thin out all but the youngest, healthiest three to five main “canes,” or branches. Aggressively pruning this way in early spring will remove any wood damaged by winter cold or wind and reinvigorate your plants for the coming season.
Late winter is also a good time to prune your fruit trees, so if you haven’t already started pruning, get to work! Remember, fruit trees stay healthiest and the most productive when given proper air circulation in and around the foliage and fruit, so try to prune out any branches that angle toward the center of the tree and thin out any crowded or crossing branches.
Secondly, now is the time to start treating your plants preventatively for insects and diseases. Aside from a good freeze around Christmas and another in mid-February, this winter has been relatively mild, so undoubtedly many more insects and fungus spores have survived the winter than we’d prefer.
That said, treating for pest and disease issues early in the season is a relatively easy task. For insect-susceptible shrubs and trees like some varieties of spruce and flowering cherries, Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control is an easy-to-use, effective insecticide that requires no spraying and provides a full year of protection against insects—just water it in around the base of the plant. For non-flowering trees, apply Bonide Tree & Shrub anytime; for flowering trees, apply right after blooming.
To address issues of both insects and diseases with one product, several options are available to provide broad-spectrum control. Bonide All-Seasons Oil is a great dormant spray for insects and some diseases, Copper Dust or Spray controls a wider variety of diseases, and Fruit Tree & Plant Guard provides easy-to-use control of a wide range of both insects and diseases throughout the growing season. In any case, visit Vander Giessen Nursery for guidance on the proper product and timing for your plants to achieve the best results.
Finally, it’s time to begin planting! Bareroot fruit trees are available now at Vander Giessen’s for $10 off the standard price–as little as $26.99!–and with no rootball to manage, they’re incredibly easy to handle as well. For your containers, ‘Kramer’s Red’ winter-blooming heather makes a great long-lasting shrub that can be transplanted into the yard later this spring. And of course, spring primroses and pansies provide unbeatable color for the coming months.
As we enjoy the first signs of spring, make the most of the mild weather and enjoy the life-giving sights and smells of a new year!