Leave mulch in place
Don’t jump the gun on removing mulch. Wait until the tulips begin to bloom. Remove whatever you can by hand and then use a strong spray of water to get rid of the rest of the soil. Be sure to keep three inches of organic mulch on the ground around the plant for the growing season.
Choose roses that take little care
When planning a rose display, be sure to choose roses that you have time to care for. Hybrid teas, grandifloras and many floribundas will take disease control, frequent fertilizing and winter mulching. Hardy shrub roses and antique roses are usually disease resistant and take little care except for occasional pruning and fertilizing.
Grow roses that are on their own roots rather than grafted
If a grafted rose dies back to the ground in winter, the resulting new growth may be from a hardy rootstock that is different from the top. To avoid this, purchase roses that are grown on their own roots. If the plant dies back, the new growth will be exactly like the growth that died.
Prune winter dieback
Prune winter dieback while the plants are still semi-dormant to take full use of the sap and nutrient flow in spring. Dead areas of stems will be obvious by their color. Prune just below the dead area, aiming to cut just above an outward facing bud. Also, prune for a pleasing shrub shape.
Plant groundcover beneath roses
This year, consider planting a groundcover beneath your roses. Research has shown that instead of competing for nutrients as previously believed, the living mulch actually helps keep the roses healthy and free from stress. Some possibilities: lavender, germander, lamium, veronica, waldsteinia, potentilla, sedum, geranium, and campanula.
Lilies are being offered year round in many garden centers and mail order catalogs. Be sure to purchase some of these garden beauties for mid-summer bloom. Purchase bulbs that are firm and have no unpleasant odors. Do not let the bulbs dry out before planting.
Recycle for the garden
Start recycling for the garden. Save paper towel, bathroom tissue of gift paper rolls into 3-inch lengths and use for seed starting or as collars around early transplants to prevent cutworm damage. Make a mini-greenhouse by bending coat hangers into arches to fit in a seedling flat. Cover with plastic.
Plant spinach early
Spinach is one of the earliest vegetables we can plant. Don’t be in a hurry to get into the garden when the soil is still wet or you risk ruining the soil structure. However, if you have a bed already prepared, plant spinach seeds as soon as you can for succulent leaves in the cool spring.
Leave garden debris in place
When the spring clean-up bug hits, don’t be too eager to rake the area under shrubs and groundcovers clean of leaves and organic debris. Leaving some at natural mulch not only helps the health of the plants, but it also gives birds that feed on worms and insects and excellent hunting ground.
Cut back ornamental grasses
As soon as the weather permits being outside comfortably, cut back all ornamental grass foliage left on for the winter. Be sure to do this before new growth starts. This will make it easier than trying to sort through the new foliage and will keep from damaging it.