when to clean the garden

linda0210April 1, 2010

I get so confused this time of the year when the temperature goes wacky! WHEN is the right time to clean out the leaves out of the garden. I had piled it on some of the perennials as winter mulch......for the plants that bloom early or spring perennials, not a problem since they grow thru it.

But unfortunately, it drives me crazy to look at it. So, giving that the weekend is supposed to be nice, is it too early to clean it all out - should I wait a couple more weeks?

supposed to be Z6a by the map (but i really think still z5!)

Fran, what do you do?



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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

I frantically rake out those dead leaves when I spot the first green sprout. If I leave the winter junk on after that, the tender new shoots get broken and injured by my rake and also get stepped on.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 9:14PM
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tulipscarolan(z6 RIcoast)

It's tricky. Normally I would have removed it all also at the first sign of green. But that all happened early this year--about 2 weeks early. So anyway, I didn't finish my cleanup. So timing wise, I'd say this weekend would be perfect. But if you are in RI or MA, the ground is unbelievably saturated. I'm a little worried about soil compaction if I'm stepping in the garden, despite 65 degrees and sunny. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 10:11PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Now is definitely the time for cleanup provided your soil is not waterlogged. I live near the ocean where the soil is very sandy so most of my property is good for go after a day or two of no rain. I always do my cleanup including pruning when everything is starting to wake up. Otherwise, it's just to difficult once everything has leafed out or sprouted significantly.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 10:35PM
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Well, good part is that they are all border gardens - nothing is over 4' wide so I can rake either from the edge or from both sides and not worry about compacting anything. tree_oracle, you are right about it being difficut after everything is leafed out. I just worry about frost damage thru basically May 1.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 7:42AM
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This is my first spring to be in the garden, and it's all new. I just heard about soil compaction last month, after I'd stepped all over the garden looking for shoots of established perennials. I don't have that many, as the last two years have been mainly weed removal rather than planting, so I'm hoping the plants are OK.

I have already raked off quite a bit of my mulch from around the crowns of plants because I had such a problem with mildew last summer. My tall phlox had it especially bad. Before last winter I removed all old mulch, put on new, and this spring the new mulch has whiteness all over it. That mildew is the main reason I'm removing so much of my mulch now. I'd really like to get flowers from these phlox as I had none last year because they were establishing themselves. I'm glad to hear that it's OK to do some clean-up now.

I think I'd like to have a mulch-free garden eventually. It would be helpful if all those weeds don't come back this year!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 8:44AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The last two winters I've tried to have fairly little litter in the garden because of voles. So the mulch goes on in spring, and doesn't get reapplied in the fall. It should do a better job of getting things cut down in the fall, but that runs into time issues. I was clearing out siberian iris yesterday, and instead of having two billion of them, the voles had eaten the supply down to only one billion. The lack of covering doesn't seem to have hurt anything.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 11:11AM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

Deanna, your mulch just might be starting to break down. That white stuff may not be something bad.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 8:34PM
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Wow, I would have never thought that white stuff was part of the decomposition process. I'll have to take some to my local nursery and have them look at it. Decomp is good! Thanks for letting me know.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 10:36AM
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