What Can We Do in the Flower Garden Now?
Don't Damage Your Soil!
A couple of
nice warm sunny days have made all gardeners lust for spring. But is it time to
start working in the garden? If so, what can we do?
First, do no harm. How much you can do right now depends on your soil conditions. If you have sandy soil with great drainage, get right out and start raking your lawn and flower beds. If you have wet soils with poor drainage or a clay base that holds water, hold off for awhile.
This soil is pretty wet. Better to stay off it.
By raking now you can get leaves off your perennials and bulbs before they come up. That way you won't damage a flower bud of a daffodil or crocus. And secondly, raking now helps the soil to warm up and get dry. I'm impatient for spring, so I want to get the leaves off the beds.
Why does it
matter if you walk on wet soils? Soil structure is important for the roots of
your plants. If you walk on wet soils, they compress and leave no space for air
and water. Packed soil is tougher for roots to grow in. Our plants will grow
best in light, fluffy soil.
How do you know if the soil is ready for visitors? If it feels squishy, stay off. If you leave footprints, you should stay indoors! If you are determined to start raking and the soil is still a little soggy there are a couple of things you can do: first, you can wear your snow shoes. Yes, the neighbors will giggle, but it will distribute your weight over a larger area. Failing that, you can put down 6-inch wide boards to walk on.
Don't put away the snowshoes!
soil is dry enough to walk on, what kind of rake should you use? I have 3 kinds
of “lawn” rakes – old fashioned bamboo, plastic and metal. Each has a use,
though they overlap somewhat.
Of the three lawn rakes, the stiffest is the metal one. They are great for moving road sand off the lawn and onto a wide shovel. They are great for moving large piles of wet leaves. They are a little tough on newly-emerged bulb plants or perennials that have just emerged and are hiding under leaves.
A few of my rakes
The gentlest of the three is the plastic lawn rake. These rakes come in various sizes and are relatively inexpensive. I have one super-wide one – 32 INCHES - I love in the fall for raking dry, fluffy leaves. I used it recently on the lawn as I wanted to be sure I did not damage the dormant grass plants. I have a 6-inch wide one that easily gets between plants.
And like the Momma Bear in the
Goldilocks tale, the intermediate rake is the bamboo rake. Light and easy to
use, I like mine. But part of that may be that it reminds me of past days,
before plastic came in. Still, it is tough and flexible, and aside from the
fact that the bamboo tines are breakable, it is great.
Last rake? The garden rake or “rock
rake”. It has tines just 2 inches long that are spaced an inch apart. Not the
rake to use in a flower bed if the plants are just emerging. But if you have
hosta beds, as I do, it is great for pulling off lasts year’s leaves. Or a bed
that is full of downed stems of beebalm. Just test to make sure this year’s
nubs are not up yet.
I’ve used snowshoes in the spring – but you probably know already that I’m a little over the top when it comes to gardening.
What's blooming for you now? I've got snowdrops, scilla, crocus, winter aconite. Post your blooms below in the comments section. Those daffodils I showed at the start of the post are last year's tete-a-tete, an early one - but not blooming yet for me. But I do have February Daphne in full bloom. Great shrub!
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I'm the author of 4 gardening books.