tree peony

An Early Spring: will it be roses, radishes, or both?

by Donatella de Rosa

My garden is precocious this year and I’m certain, if you are a fellow gardener here in the North East, that yours is too. Given an extremely mild winter and early spring, my internal clock is spinning and skipping and the plants in my garden are skipping along at a clip that’s leaving me much too far behind. There’s so much to do… and it feels like there’s less time to do it.

Get out the tools:

By now, [middle to end of April], I should have all my tools gathered in one spot. I always plan this chore in February so that I’ll have plenty of time to clean and oil the handles, ditto for the blades, to check for rust and broken or loose parts and lastly, sharpen any dull blades.

Along with attending to my tools, I like to check the compost pile and make sure I have enough mulch and any organic boosters I may need for the season. It helps to have everything on hand so that you won’t have to run out and buy last minute items. Since it’s the beginning of the season, you can also buy in bulk without fear of waste.

Plan, Plan, Plan:

If you’re like me, you have lots of grandiose ideas about what you’ll accomplish finally, this year… I make plans for adding new plants to older beds, moving plants to new areas, playing around with the existing combinations, putting in new beds, putting in raised vegetable beds, putting in a bog garden, a cutting garden, etc., etc.

Here’s the truly difficult part; wading through my plans and lists and tossing out the plans that I know I won’t get to this year, [there’s always next year]. Then I go through what’s left and decide what my priorities are. I know from experience that even at my best, I will never, without the help of an experienced crew, finish all of the new things I’ve planned for this year’s garden. So, I must decide if I will have help this year, [little chance of that] or if I will as always, do most of the work myself and if that’s the case, what I most want to accomplish. It’s a good thing that I totally love doing this work.

Prune & Weed:

Early spring is a great time to take out any dead branches in your trees and shrubs. Some flowering shrubs can be pruned now. You must be cautious here, make sure you’re pruning a shrub that blooms on new growth not last years growth. There are various hydrangeas, among others, that fall into one or the other category. Buddleia, Russian Sage and Caryopteris can all be pruned now with impunity. Don’t forget to cut down those ornamental grasses you left up for winter interest and if you have a hedge that needs trimming, this would be a good time.

This is also a great time to start weeding. You can stop weeds from getting ahead of you if you pull them out now before they get established. And now’s the time to get rid of any invasive plants that made there way into your garden, or anywhere else on your property.

And so it begins…


photographs taken by the author, in her garden



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