Diggin' It: In the garden

Pruning clematis vines, such as this “multi-blue,” can be confusing, but it’s wise to prune right after the bloom fades, about six inches from the ground.

Am I the only one who thought spring would never get here? What a winter it’s been.

I lost count of the number of days I saw snowfall and there weren’t nearly enough of those warm intermissions that tide us over until the next storm.

Even the weather experts have declared it a wetter and colder-than-normal winter —the La Nina effect. Now my fingers are crossed that we’ll have a normal spring. No more of that arctic stuff, please.

The lawn is already growing and needs a weekly mowing. Utilizing spring rains, we can don our rain parka and sprinkle fertilizer on our water-soaked lawns. Bare spots can be sprinkled with lawn seed and will have plenty of time to fill in before summer.

Weeds are much easier to tackle now, when they’re small, easier to pull. And you’ll thank yourself later for getting rid of them before they spread their seeds all over. After they’re pulled and disposed of, a fresh layer of mulch over the area will help keep the area clean and neat.

My pruners always get a lot of use this time of year. The early-blooming flowering shrubs such as rhododendron, camellia and azalea can be pruned right after they are finished blooming. This will give them enough time through the spring and summer months to grow next year’s blossoms.

If I haven’t done so yet, I will also trim my summer-flowering Hall’s Honeysuckle vine to keep it from taking over the neighborhood.

Speaking of vines, clematis vines can be one of the most confusing of vines to prune.

The standard practice is to determine which “type” you’re growing and prune according to that type’s needs. However, I’ve found that the same principle that applies to shrubs also applies to all clematis types — prune right after the blooms fade. I prune mine all the way back, to within six or so inches from the ground.

With an application of fertilizer/compost and a good soaking, the plant should put out fresh green shoots. Often it will rebloom.

Additionally, this means the gardener won’t have to deal with that brown tangle of death that can accumulate if left unattended for any length of time. The one drawback to this method is that you won’t have any of the fluffy seed heads to enjoy but if you’re like me, you prefer to see the flowers over the seed heads anyway.

There are early veggies that can be started from seed. Arugula, spinach and other salad greens grow easily in containers and I’ve found that this method helps keep hungry slugs at bay. If placed under a patio cover, the rain will be unable to batter the poor things and splash soil upon their leaves, which means less grit to wash off at the kitchen sink.

Seeds of peas, onions, carrots and brassicas can be sown now or purchased as seedlings and planted out. Just watch for slugs. And, needless to say, keep an eye on those weeds.

It’s important to be vigilant to nighttime temperatures. The garden centers have marigolds, petunias and other summer bedding plants for sale but a single night of cold temperatures can wreak havoc on one’s best intentions. Instead of risking it with these frost-sensitive plants, I focus on repotting and grooming my wintered-over container plants such as fuchsias, begonias and hardier root-bound perennials such as New Zealand flax, ferns and ornamental grasses.

Rosebushes can use a dose of fertilizer and a top-dressing of compost. If you haven’t done so yet, you can prune them back now or wait until they’ve finished with their first round of blooms.

Remember to check the new growth for hungry aphids. They can be squished with gloved fingers. Or a spray of water will do them in. Ladybugs consider aphids the finest of delicacies so if you see ladybugs on your rosebush, allow them to do their work.

Spring is such a beautiful time. Yes, there are garden chores to do but we shouldn’t get bogged down with tasks without taking time to enjoy nature.

Breathing in the freshness of the air, gazing at the beauty and intricacy of spring bloomers, listening to birds as they go about their nest-building, watching bees buzz from one flower to another — these are all reminders that nature is alive and well and we humans are the recipients of a grand and awesome gift.

With the world seemingly on edge, nature reminds us of what’s really important.

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