What to do now - Jobs in the Garden by Season

Seven gardening tasks to do before the spring thaw

Bundle up and cross these essential chores, from pruning to pest control, off your list

Gardeners know that the growing season doesn’t begin on a warm morning in May—there is much to be done while frost still lingers in the ground. In the lengthening days of earliest spring, while the sap is still flowing, we should be up and about the potting shed, getting ready for the planting rush. Making tools ready, mixing up custom fertilizers and organizing irrigation equipment are practical matters we can accomplish before the buds break. Instead of trying to catch up, an early start puts us in confident control of the gardening season.

Prune summer-flowering shrubs

To avoid wasting potential blossoms, it’s important to have the first big surge of spring growth going into productive wood. These plants make their flowers on new wood:

Remove dead wood and shorten sections of living wood that are slimmer than a pencil (they won’t have enough strength to hold up the flowers).

Cut back canes and branches of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (sometimes called hills of snow) and H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (a.k.a. PeeGee), ‘Unique’ and ‘Tardiva’ by about half their lengths.

Shorten stems of low-growing Spiraea japonica (‘Anthony Waterer’, ‘Bumalda’, ‘Goldflame’, ‘Gold Mound’ and ‘Little Princess’, for example) by two-thirds their lengths.

Rose of Sharon
If shortening is required, remove up to one-third its height before new growth begins.

Cut back last year’s growth before buds break. If you’re unsure of what pruning category your clematis is in, it’s safe to cut back by half the plant’s height.


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