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Southeast Gardening: Spring Garden Chores

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Pruning, trimming and tidying up the yard: just a few of the spring chores that will give your garden a jump start on the growing season.

rake and iris

By Glenn DiNella

After our recent wet, dreary winter, you might be inspired to get into the garden and do some cleanup on the next sunny day. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

My bird feeder gets an annual spring cleaning.

One task I do each spring is cleaning my wooden bird feeder. I use a paint scraper to gouge out moldy cracked corn and sunflower seed hulls the birds have left behind. A small brush also is useful. I then restock the feeder with fresh seed.

Remember, just because spring has sprung doesn’t mean our feathered friends no longer need food. In fact most of the berries, fruits and seeds they dine on won’t be available for harvesting until summer, so keep food available for them throughout spring.

Cutting back ferns makes them healthier for growing season.

This is the time to cut back perennials. Cut out the withered stalks and foliage and put them in the compost if they demonstrate no signs of pests or disease. Cutting back dormant ferns and ornamental grasses, such as fountain grass (Pennisetum) and maiden grass (Miscanthus), will help them grow back stronger this spring.

Cutting back grasses is a two-person job.

This is a good two-person task, but be very careful. As one person gathers and holds the grass leaves and stalks, another person trims the grass 6–12 in above the ground using either manual or electric hedge clippers.

You can do the task alone, but it takes longer, as you’ll have to rake up the clippings. Or you can use twine to lasso the grass. Then, when you cut the grass it stays together in a clump, so you can gather it up easily.

Trimming crape myrtles is a popular topic of discussion among Southerners. Although the word is getting out that there is no need to lop off large branches (aka “crape murder”), it still happens all too often. Crape myrtles do bloom better on new growth, so a late winter/early spring pruning is good. But chances are, if you need a tool larger than a pair of loppers, you are cutting off too much.


A pole pruner gets to hard-to-reach spots

A fellow landscaper in my area recently suggested I try a Fiskars Pruning Stik for this task.

It works well on small or medium-size trees.

No need to hack off large crape myrtle branches.

There comes a time when some crape myrtles simply get so large, it’s best not to prune them at all—just let them go. You always can prune dead limbs. If you have two limbs rubbing together and damaging the bark (called “fiddler branches”), prune one of the two limbs.

Keep in mind that in tight spots you can plant dwarf crape myrtles that won’t require drastic pruning to keep them in check.