Gardners Resist the Urge!
Tip from Maureen Taylor, Master Gardener, and Landscape Designer of Taylor Made Landscape Design in Chicago.
After a long, cold, snowy winter like we’ve just had in Chicago, we gardeners are more than eager to get out and get to work clearing and cleaning, but I urge you to hold off a bit…for now anyway.
You should resist the urge to clean up your beds too early. Even though we are all anxious to see what is starting to grow, it is better to wait it out a bit. Hopefully, you kept the leaves from last fall in your flower beds. These leaves help regulate the temperature of the soil. Removing this organic cover too soon will expose the tender shoots to our unpredictable spring weather. The old leaves will decompose on their own and give essential nutrients back into the soil.
As consistently warmer weather arrives, (usually around mid-March or later) you can start to remove some the leaves to expose the crowns of the plants, but do not put the leaves in the trash can. Leave this material around the roots of the plants instead.
If you can live with the look of the decomposing leaves for a few extra weeks until the plant fully leafs out, your garden will thank you for it by being more productive!
Winter and early spring in the garden is a series of freeze and thaw cycles. These cycles create tiny air spaces called “pores” in the soil which are essential for healthy plants. Soil is a living organism and as such needs, oxygen to exist. Without adequate oxygen, it becomes waterlogged, and roots of plants will rot.
If you dig or even walk on your garden beds too early when the soil is wet, you will do a lot of damage to your soil by eliminating these air spaces. If you must walk in your garden, lay down a plank of wood and walk on that instead.
Maureen Taylor is a Master Gardener, Landscape Designer, past president of the Irving Park Garden Club and owner of Taylor Made Landscape Design. www.taylormld.com