Log In

Reset Password

Growing Green: Here’s to successful start for summer gardening

Here are tasks that will give you a successful start to preparing your garden for summer.

Make a spring inspection:

Walk around your gardens. Check for beds that need to be cleaned out, for snow and ice damage on plants, and for shifted or rotted hardscaping.

Note deer or rodent damage to woody plants. It’s a good idea to look for new animal burrows from nuisance wildlife such as skunks or rabbits. Spring is the best time to build new raised beds.

Clean and sharpen tools:

Take the time to clean, sharpen and oil your tools. Fill your wheelbarrow tires with air, sharpen your lawnmower blades and service your mower.

Prune (some) shrubs:

Get out your newly-sharpened pruners and begin by removing dead or damaged wood from your shrubs. You may shape up your evergreens such as boxwood and arborvitae if you wish. Prune shrubs that bloom on new growth, such as panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata).

Roses also bloom on new growth. Wait to prune them until after their buds begin to swell to avoid damage from a late frost. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs such as azalea, forsythia and lilac until after they have finished blooming, or you will risk cutting of this year’s flower buds.

Clean out garden beds:

Clean the plant debris out of your beds. Remove fallen branches, matted down leaves and last year’s perennial foliage. Cut back perennials you left standing over the winter including ornamental grasses.

Make sure you clean up hiding places for slugs. Pull any early weeds. Starting now will make weeding easier as the season progresses.

Prepare the soil:

Early spring is the best time to enrich the soil without disturbing the plants. If you have never had your soil analyzed or it’s been a couple of years since your last test, get a kit from your local Extension office.

This simple test will tell you if your planting beds and turf are lacking much-needed nutrients for healthy growth. Once you have added the suggested amendments, topdress your beds with one or two inches of compost. If you don’t have a compost pile, start one.

Many home gardeners overuse fertilizers, causing runoff and water pollution. Too much nitrogen leads to weak plant growth that encourages insect pests. Your landscape plants will receive adequate nutrition from a soil rich in organic matter. Your vegetable garden will benefit the most from fertilizer. Do not fertilize spring flowering bulbs after they have started blooming or you will encourage bulb rot and may shorten the life of the flowers.

Divide and transplant:

While the plants are still dormant, divide or transplant perennials or shrubs that have outgrown their space. They will be less stressed by the move if they have no foliage. They can focus on developing roots.

Plant cool-weather vegetables:

Start your cool-season vegetable crops, such as peas, cabbage, radishes and beets. Sow lettuce and spinach seeds in cold frames. Do not be tempted to turn over or dig into wet soil or it will become brick-hard when it dries out.

Purchase floating row covers:

Floating row covers are made of a lightweight spun fabric that allows light and water to enter. They are useful for protecting crops from pests such as cabbage worms. They trap the soils natural heat, promoting early growth. If freezing temperatures are forecast, do not use plastic sheeting or tarps as they will magnify the cold’s effect. Old sheets and towels are a better option.

Put out plant supports:

Installing cucumber trellises, peony rings, stakes for delphiniums, and other supports now will be much easier than waiting until the plants have grown too high.

Get out into your garden. The gardening season has begun.

“Growing Green” is contributed by Diane Dorn, Lehigh County Extension Office Staff, and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.