Princeton Capital Blog

Preparing the Soil for Spring

March 5th, 2013

Portrait of senior womanPreparing the Soil for Spring

It’s time to do a little yard work in between the rain storms that are coming up. In the Fall, we talked about what to prune and what not to prune. For the Spring, you’ll be pulling out the shears again as well as buying fertilizer to keep your yard looking great.

Finally, if you’re going to plant a vegetable garden, now is the time to prepare the soil. So pull out that shovel, spreader, and tiller if you have it.

What to Feed

  • When your roses come out of dormancy, feed them often as they’ll be starving.
  • Citrus should be fed approximately every three months. If you missed January, don’t worry. Just go ahead and get some special fertilizer around their roots.
  • Azaleas, camelias, rhododendrons, and other flowering bushes should be fed once per year in the spring.
  • Bulbs like irises should get a slow-release fertilizer to help with their growth and flower production.

What to Prune

Overall guide at Good Housekeeping

  • Ornamental grasses should be cut as close to the ground as possible.
  • Semiwoody perennials should be cut back to about 4″ to produce strong new stems and best flower display.
  • Broad-leaved evergreens should be pruned to remove any stems with foliage that was damaged by winter.
  • And lastly, for March/April time frame, summer-flowering trees, shrubs, vines, hydrangea, and roses should be pruned to remove dead, damaged, or crowded stems, shape or reduce size as needed.

For additional information on deadheading your perennials, there’s a very detailed guide at Yerba Buena Nursery.

Deadheading is the simple pruning of spent flower stalks and seed heads to clean up and rejuvenate the plant. While unnecessary for most shrubs, this treatment always benefits flowering perennials. (A perennial is a small flowering plant that does not get larger and ‘woody’ after a year or two, such as Columbine, Penstemon, Seaside Daisy, etc.

Typically deadheading is done shortly after the plant stops producing new flowers. With some natives, such as Penstemon and Monkeyflowers, removing spent blossoms will encourage the plant to re-bloom again the same season! Others such as Sages typically do not bloom again but look more attractive with this treatment.

Whatever the plant, the basic procedure involves finding a spent flower stalk on the plant, and clipping the stalk back to the first set of healthy leaves below the flower stalk.

An important note about deadheading – by cutting flower stalks as soon as they fade, you are preventing the plant from producing seed, and so its energy goes back into producing new growth, and sometimes new flowers.

Preparing the Soil

You can pick up a little kit from your local hardware store or garden center. Test for alkaline and acidity, and that will determine what additives you need.

Also, you’ll want to add in a good basic fertilizer, and compost if you can find it. Some of the best compost is chicken manure. Also, if you have determined that your soil is acidic, you’ll want to add in lime. If your soil is too alkaline, you’ll want to add in cottonseed meal. Keep in mind some plants like blueberries, azaleas, and camellias require the soil to be more acidic. Blood meal is useful for increasing nitrogen which is required by beans and peas, and can increase the lushness of free plants.

You can also start picking up coffee grounds from your local Starbucks, Peet’s, or your favorite coffee house. Coffee grounds make wonderful mulch around your new plants when you’re ready to put them in the ground. If you can find a simple container, just keep gathering them up when you’re in the store and they’re available.  Coffee grounds have the perfect carbon to nitrogen ratio, and can keep slugs away from your plants. Read more here in the Seattle PI about how coffee grounds are wonderful for an organic garden.

Do you think you’ll get some time in the garden this weekend?

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