Even though the ground is still frozen and, in some areas, snow-covered, gardening projects can still begin. It may not be placing those delicate flowers and vegetables out yet, but important details can be accomplished before the calendar gives the “go ahead” to start the annual planting process.
Rather than wait until the last minute to rush through the nursery with a half-baked list of ideas, late winter is always a great time to plan. Look for new ideas, perhaps at one of the important garden shows in the area, or consult with a professional landscape designer or nursery to plan that spectacular garden design.
Besides sketching the vegetable and flower plantings, late winter is an excellent time to re-imagine the yard with new trees and shrubs.
Clean Up and Service the Equipment
While your equipment may have received a cursory cleaning last fall, late winter is a great time to service machinery and prepare for the coming season. Tillers and lawn mowers should get fresh oil and fuel, and a start-up test can be beneficial to identify any operating problems.
Remove the Dead Leaves and Accumulated Debris
Some of last year’s leaves and small fallen branches undoubtedly remain, either from your trees or from the neighbors’. Cleaning these up now will leave your planting areas and lawn looking great as you wait for the real gardening season to begin. Matted leaves can restrict the early growth of perennials and provide a comfortable home for insects.
Eliminate the Weeds
Weeds will begin to pop up as soon as the ground is soft. Attack the problem shortly after the soil can be worked, often before the last frost. Till the soil to discourage weeds from taking root. Pull and discard any that may have established themselves late last year. Cover the area with mulch for now until planting begins. Mulching should continue to keep weeds from developing.
Perennial Pruning and Care
Cut back ornamental grasses to allow new growth to develop. Also, for many trees and shrubs, late winter is the right time to consider pruning. However, if you are not sure, consult an expert who has experience in the varieties and climate with which you are working.
Some varieties of perennials like hostas, asters, and Siberian iris can even be divided at this time to create new plants, free of charge.