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It’s not quite spring yet, but it sure feels like it around here! I’ve been keeping busy juggling clients, writing articles and e-meeting many of you who’ve been joining my virtual gardening programs (if you’re interested in bringing a presentation to your library, garden club or organization, send them this link!)
Does it feel like spring to you? If you’re itching to get your hands dirty, here’s a quick checklist of 7 tasks to tackle:
Inspect walkways, patios, trellises, retaining walls, fences, window boxes and other hardscaping items in the garden. Lots of damage can happen over winter, especially in colder climates. Address and/or repair anything that needs attention now, before they’re put into use.
Prune summer-blooming trees and shrubs before their buds bloom (hold off on pruning spring bloomers until after their flowers fade.)
Test your soil’s pH and adjust it, if necessary.
If you need to relocate trees and shrubs, do it while they’re still dormant.
Start seeds indoors or out, depending on your climate.
After there have been 5 consecutive days when temperatures have not dipped below 50 degrees, cut back last year’s perennials, ornamental grasses, etc., and clear garden beds of leaves and debris. If you do so earlier, you’ll risk disturbing hibernating pollinators, which you’ll need if you want a garden this year.
Divide summer- and fall-blooming perennials when they start growing.
For more great gardening tips — one for every day of the year! — get a jump on the growing season with my Day-by-Day Gardening Calendar. It’s like a complete gardening course in a wall calendar! By year’s end, I promise, you’ll have earned a green thumb! Plus, your wall will be adorned with award-winning photography provided by The Weekly Dirt readers. Take a look:
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: Morning glory vines were heavily entwined with my clematis last summer. Can I cut the clematis at the base to clear the trellis? —Laurie Schlageter, East Islip, NY
DEAR LJ: Next to hydrangeas, clematis seem to be the most befuddling to gardeners at pruning time. That's because, like hydrangeas, there are different types of clematis, each with its own pruning requirement.
Clematis fall into three groups called Group One, Group Two and Group Three, as if Dr. Seuss himself named them. There are too many varieties to list, but a quick Google search of your variety and the keywords "clematis" and "pruning group" will tell you how yours is classified.
Once you know your clematis' group, follow these pruning instructions to keep them in top shape.
GROUP ONE: These vines bloom on last year's growth, so if you cut them down now, you won't have any flowers this year. Prune for shape and size -- or cut them a bit above ground level -- right after they finish flowering, but never after July, when they'll be busy producing buds for next year.
GROUP TWO: Aside from removing dead, weak and straggly stems, which you should do in late winter or early spring, pruning is done only once every three or four years (at any time during the growing season). But if vines become bare at the base, which they tend to do as they age (or tangled with morning glories), you can force new growth by cutting the whole thing down to about 18 inches right after the year's first bloom.
GROUP THREE: These late bloomers flower on new growth, which means any stems on the plant right now won't bloom. So you can --and should -- cut the plant down to about 12 inches from the ground in late winter or early spring.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Feed spring-flowering bulbs with a 5-10-5 quick-release fertilizer as soon as shoots poke out of the ground.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Speaking of spring, reader Lori Jackson shared this idyllic springtime photo taken in Rowley, Mass. It can’t come soon enough!
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next!
📰ICYMI: The latest from my Associated Press gardening column
I started writing a bi-weekly gardening column for the AP in January, so you might be seeing my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you are. In case you miss it, though, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Black innovators who reshaped American gardening and farming: The achievements of 19th-century scientist George Washington Carver have landed him in U.S. history textbooks, but many other agricultural practices and innovations that traveled with enslaved people from West Africa or were developed by their descendants remain unsung. Here’s a look at five.
Tips for indoor seed-starting: When to start planting seeds indoors? First, check your frost date.
Holey leaves and vines! A look at houseplant trends for 2022: A look at trends in houseplants for 2022. Popular varieties include fenestrated plants, that is, those with leaves that are split or contain holes. Vines are another hot category.
Let’s be friends! Follow me @JesDamiano on Instagram
📧 How’m I doing?
I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.
And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please share it with a friend!
Hi Jessica, I have two questions. I have a beautiful flowering Cyclamen. How do I keep it flowering and can I transplant it outdoors in April?