Garden Log 3/1/22

It’s always a little bit of a dilemma in the early days of spring, when the temperatures have suddenly shot up to 50 and a gardener is dying to get properly stuck in there — but there’s still a lot of pollinators hibernating in the leaf litter, so if you can resist the urge to ‘clean up’ for a few weeks, you’ll be rewarded with more life in your garden down the line.

I find it particularly challenging because I plant a lot of hellebores (first perennial to bloom) and early spring ephemeral bulbs (snowdrops, reticulated irises, species crocuses, muscari, etc.), and they do get smothered under a heavy pile of leaf litter. Bigger bulbs — daffodils, tulips, etc. — can push right through leaf litter, but the little ones mostly can’t. If I left them alone, a few would pop through, but many would just yellow and wither away.

My compromise — I try to keep those plantings to a few dedicated areas, and I go in very carefully and clear away just as much as I need to with my fingers (rakes are too rough anyway, and will break off flower buds). I free up the hellebores, trimming away the old withered leaves, letting the new leaves and buds shine. I lift the thick mulch off the snowdrops — the next rounds of little bulbs are planted right below them.

Most of the garden — a good 90%, at least, gets to sleep for another few weeks. It’s a pretty good compromise, I think, for both the earliest of spring flowers and a lively later garden!

(In the photo with the cat, the cleared patch is just that little bit, over to the right. Most of the garden is undisturbed for now.)

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