Warmer temperatures, early bloomers showing a pop of color, the harmony of bird calls and frogs – all signs point to spring! The time of year most anticipated by home gardeners has arrived and now is the time to begin preparing your gardens for the 2020 growing season. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

 

Uncover low growing plants

A significant risk for low growing plants, such as irises, primroses, and hostas, during the first damp days of spring is crown rot. Crown rot is a disease caused by soil-borne fungus which deteriorates the leaves and tissue of affected plants, an affliction that is often irreversible once it takes hold. To prevent crown rot, be sure to remove old tree leaves and other debris from new growth to reduce the humidity level of the soil and allow the plant to grow freely.

 

Prune last year’s debris

Leaving tall stems in a home garden is a common practice to provide interest and height through the winter months, but these stems can become unsightly come spring. If you left stems from last year’s growth, now is the time to remove them, but be aware! Check each stem for cocoons and egg cases before you clip, as pollinators often lay their eggs or overwinter in these hollow stalks.

 

Additionally, if you have daylilies in your garden, it is important to remove last year’s growth to prevent spring sickness and the growth of fungus or rot. Ornamental grasses should also be cut down to six inches above ground level to allow for new spring growth to flourish.

 

Transplant volunteer seedlings

While tending to your garden in the early spring, you may notice unexpected seedlings sprouting among the flowers you carefully planted last season. These seedlings, also known as volunteers, are plants that grow on their own rather than being planted deliberately and are the offspring of plants that reseed prolifically in the summer. Volunteer seedlings are often desirable plants in their own right, such as cardinal flowers and coneflowers, but their choice of landing pad may not be conducive to the design and flow of your garden. Now is an ideal time to transplant any volunteer seedlings you find in your garden to more appropriate locations where they can thrive all summer long.

 

Divide non-spring blooming perennials

Another project to tackle during early spring is dividing fall and summer blooming perennials, such as daylilies, penstemon, and phlox. These plants will be the least affected by division and can easily continue their growth cycle from a new location this early in the season. Dividing spring blooming plants like primroses can be done but isn’t advised – dividing them now risks disrupting the plant’s growth and could prevent further blooms in the season.

 

Other routine tasks

Finally, while not as glamorous as other work done in a home garden, routine tasks like weeding and removing lawn grass from non-edged gardens are not to be forgotten! These fundamentals will set you up for success for the rest of the growing season.

 

Additional Resources

University of Illinois Extension: https://extension.illinois.edu/global/horticulture

Horticultural Myths: https://puyallup.wsu.edu/lcs/

The Garden Professors: http://gardenprofessors.com/