the weatherman for help with spring clean up
By Thea Steinmetz
Published May 2, 2007
are two realities that every gardener hopes for when it’s time for
spring housecleaning in the garden. One is decent weather and the
other is stamina. Yes, I call it “housecleaning,” and it is on a
bigger scale than what we do for the inside of our home.
This annual clean up starts much as we do to get ready
for our inside clean up. We gather the tools we must have, and others
that we might need to do the job properly. The tools better be clean
and handy. It might even involve buying a new rake. The pruners,
in selected sizes, should be sharp and ready to go. Your digging
tools change with the task at hand. Soil preparation is always a
must before planting can begin. If you are using a rototiller, it
better be in working condition.
If you have a shed as we do, it needs to be cleaned
out as well. There are things in there I know I never put there.
There must have been animal squatters in residence having a good old time, because they left their
smelly and messy legacy behind. How can one flowerpot have accumulated
so many acorns in the past
There better be some grass seed around because the
lawn also needs some loving care. Especially at curbside, where
the snowplows always seem to do their best work.
I remember vividly when last year I told myself, why
indeed should I pay someone to do the spring clean up when I was
perfectly capable of doing it myself? You can guess what happened.
By August, I admitted that I could not do it to my own satisfaction.
I was still behind. So this year it was done professionally and
I am ahead of the game.
It is also the time to start planting trees and shrubs,
now that the soil is workable. This is a job that is best done before
higher temperatures move in. The spring rain will help getting the
new woody plants established and cut down on the heavy watering
we must otherwise do.
Prune spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia,
right after blooming so they can develop good new growth over the
summer. They will bloom better next year.
The best part is that I do not feel abused by all
the work staring me in the face. A bonus was that the waterfall
and tiny pond were also cleaned and worked on, and now the water
flows better than when it was first installed. Now, there is a sound
that is very pleasing to the ear, instead of the little trickle
it used to produce. The birds are frequent partakers of the water,
and it is a joy to see how happy they are. They flutter their wings
in the water as it rolls over the stones. Happy as a lark, the bluebirds,
cardinals and all manner of other visitors appreciate this bird
Here comes the less pleasant reality of spring. What
did we lose with the late winter’s fury? The dieback ranges from
almost nothing to great damage for some. The roses seem to have
suffered the most. The way it looks, I lost four rose bushes, but
have not given up hope for them to recover later on. Others are
in need of deep pruning and will be all right.
A strange thing happened with the lilacs. One formerly
strong shrub, Miss Kim, is completely dead, while several others
seem to be all right and are vigorously growing.
The large viburnum shrubs are as lusty as I have ever
seen them. I was concerned for them, as they had their buds fairly
well developed when the cold weather hit. By now they are ready
to bust into full bloom as if the horrible weather never touched
I wanted to get a sense of how some of our area’s
better gardeners fared and how great a loss they experienced. Dave
Walter was hit hard with the frost as well as with deer making themselves
at home to feast on the greenery in his garden. “It is discouraging
this year,” he said. “We may not even have any peaches.” He also
thinks that his azaleas are “iffy.” His tulips are chewed down to
the ground and he wonders if, Westlake will ever do anything about
the deer population.
Unfortunately, the flowering shrubs he planted last
year are all dead. He is especially distraught over his white French
double lilac that looks pitiful now. Even his crabapple trees seem
to be in jeopardy.
Another local gardener, especially fond of her magnolias
bemoaned the fact that all the blossoms turned brown and her red
maple has suffered also.
Looking at the garden of Ruth and Tom Stafford in
Rocky River, there seems to be little damage. The massive pink tulip
bed out in front shows a few tired flowers, but the pansies are
so satisfying. The extensive garden all around the house looks as
perfect as it can be. The close proximity to Lake Erie might have
something to do with it.
There is so much to do in the garden now that one
does not know sometimes where to start. At the moment it is raining,
so we can put off all the plans we had made for this day and instead
dream about what is yet to come.