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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Garden Talk: Getting ready to garden

By JEAN THOMSON, Master Gardener | Mar 21, 2013

Gardeners have to accept whatever March brings their way. This year, March has brought prolonged winter, delaying some tasks. So we have a little catching up to do along with some steps to prepare for the season.

Pruning for most trees and shrubs should be completed in late February or March. There are two sorts of exceptions to this timetable.

First, spring-bloomers such as lilacs, crabapples, and forsythia should not be pruned until after they bloom.

Second, oaks and walnuts should not be pruned until summer; this timing lessens danger of disease and wilt.

That still leaves quite a few candidates for pruning! Evergreens, grapes, berries, fruit trees, and most deciduous trees and bushes can all be pruned now. There are several good reasons to consider pruning.

In some cases, pruning is done to control size, keeping a particular tree or bush from crowding others. In other instances, pruning helps to foster an aesthetically pleasing shape. The structure of many trees is most clearly visible right now.

Additionally, dead or broken branches or canes will need to be removed.

While you are using your pruning saw, loppers and hand pruning shears, check on other garden tools. Be sure that everything you currently have is clean, oiled and ready for use. Consider whether you may need additional tools.

As an example, I know that I need to divide many large hostas this spring, so I just invested in a high-quality knife to cut through those tough roots.

Along with checking on tools, see if you have the gloves, trugs, hoses, and other equipment that you’ll need.

If you plan to add trees, shrubs, or perennials this spring, now is a good time to start checking with area nurseries. Visit or call to find out what will be available and to do some comparative pricing.

Finally, don’t forget the most important component of all: the gardener! If you haven’t been exercising regularly, you’ll need to do some tuning up. Challenge yourself to do some simple, equipment-free movement such as squats every single day. Make sure that your hat and garden footwear are right at hand, and put sunblock on your shopping list.

Monitor yourself as you begin spring cleanup. Even if you did an excellent job last fall, many of us are going to find a great many branches and other “new” debris to clear. Allow yourself breaks as needed.

I’m trying to be very cautious and prudent, but of course I’m feeling excited and oh-so-ready to get into the garden. The first snowdrops are blooming just outside my door, and I can’t wait for the day-by-day adventure of the 2013 gardening season!

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