Spring Reminders for Pacific Northwest Gardens

It’s sunny.  No, it’s hailing; never mind.  Actually, it’s beautiful outside, gotta run out and start some seeds.  Crud, it’s raining again. OK, I’ll work on my Spring ToDo list.  Which means adding three things to the bottom of the list as I cross of each one from the top.    I totally didn’t want this post to get away from me, but honestly, it’s like, number 53 on a list three pages long, so I’ll be brief:

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Early Spring in the Ornamental Garden | #eTilth

Top three things to do in the Pacific Northwest Spring Garden

  1.  Prune.

Seriously, what can be more satisfying than whacking at things?  You get big dramatic changes, and let in a lot of light, lifting your mood.

My first advice is to sharpen your tools.  I have an old pair of loppers that I keep wickedly sharp (and never let my husband use), as well as a couple of sizes of Felco hand-pruners.  I probably don’t need that many, but it’s really nice to leave one in the car for making some semi-hardwood cuttings (I mean, sidewalk pruning.)  I actually keep a file with my hand-pruners and sharpen them before every use.  The only time I bother to disinfect my pruners with 10% bleach is before and after I’m cutting something obviously diseased.

My second advice is to take a pruning class.  I’ve totally loved each of the University of Washington Botanic Garden Pro-Hort Master Pruning classes at the Center for Urban Horticulture [PDF], co-hosted by Plant Amnesty.  You can watch these free videos on YouTube to get specific pruning information on a variety of trees and shrubs, and it’s totally worth becoming a member.

So, in early spring,

  • Finish pruning your fruit trees,
  • Prune your roses
  • Take hardwood cuttings (Hydrangea, Willow, Dogwood, Holly, Vines )
  • Coppice your dogwoods (cornus) and willows (salix)
  • Prune your hardy evergreen hedges (Boxwood, Ilex, Osmanthus
  • Cut back the ornamental grasses (Miscanthus, Calamagrostis, bamboo) and maybe even your lawn, assuming you didn’t plant crocuses in it.
  • Cut back your hardy perennials and over-wintered geraniums to remove old foliage and let the fresh spring growth start.

2.  Manage Seedlings

My seed starting inspiration comes from:

  • NW Edible Life for Vegetables – Always well researched and entertaining.
  • Floret Flower Farm for Annual Flowers – put on a kettle; you’ll be drowning in colorful photographs for a while; so necessary to keep the winter blahs away.
  • Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, newly updated by my friend Lisa Taylor.  Her local knowledge and hands-on experience is tremendous.  The variety recommendations alone are worth the book.

Don’t forget to prevent new seeds.  Keep on top of the weeding now, especially that Cardamine hirsuta.  Fairly tasty, I prefer to feed this bittercress to the chickens (also known as chickweed; see A Charlotte Garden for the botanical differences.)

3.  Build Stuff

This year, I want to build a bunny hutch, an English cold frame with recycled bricks, more tuteurs, and a lot of new paving for our permeable driveway.  Ambitious?  Truly.  At least I’m not repairing the chicken coop again, right?

What are you doing this spring?

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