The Horticulture Report

SPRING CLEANING  Andrea E, March 2024

In memory of Dr. Ladd, Horticulture Professor, Towson University,  who always gave us the most up to date Hort Reports.  He was our beloved only male member back in the 90s.

Our long winter of discontent, except for garden catalogue cruising is coming to an end. We already have bulbs sending up strong shoots with other plants shrugging off dormancy on the brink of new growth. I have daffodils, hellebores, and crocus blooming. Freezing is less likely with trending warmer days. Several of our tasks are best accomplished prior to the growing season. Initially, just take a walk around the yard to access what is needed to repair from winter damage.


If you have hard scape incorporated into your planted areas, it is a good time to make repairs to stone and brick.  Paved walks may have heaved up and may need aligning.  Decks and patios may require power washing and outside furniture soaped down and rinsed. Dawn works great by the way. 
Bird baths need cleaning and bird feeders should be wiped down with a 10% bleach solution to kill bacteria and diseases. Maryland recommendation is to have bird feeders hung outside from November through April. Hummingbird feeders, taken down at last year’s first frost can be put up again.
Reorganize shed/garage and sharpen and clean tools.
Pruning is good for plant training, plant health, growth control/safety.
Evergreens can be pruned anytime of the year.  I just sheared back my acuba.  Spring flowering trees and shrubs such as redbuds, wild hydrangeas, and red twig dogwood do best trimmed right after blooming. January is the best time to trim deciduous trees unless weather is bad. Simply wait until February or early March. Performing the cutting while trees are dormant will add vigor without causing trauma. I finished pruning my crepe myrtles and Japanese Maple last week. Sterilize pruning tools regularly with isopropyl alcohol to avoid diseases. 
Fruit trees should be pruned before buds appear to avoid stressing the plant or diminishing the fruit quality.  Finally trim ornamental grasses all the way to the ground, leaving only one inch above soil line. 
Leaves left in the gardens for insects and birds can be removed as well as the weeds. One aggressive winter annual that pops out in winter and will cover turf as well as beds is Hairy Bittercress. (pass around plant, one with blooms and one without). If you can pull it out and it does come out easily) before it blooms, better are your chances to keep it from throwing seeds all over the yard and multiplying next winter.
Test soil every 3-4 years.  Readings for soil ph, phosphorus, kcl, calc, and mag are performed to test the health of your soil.  Once you have the results, amend accordingly. Maryland Extension will recommend amendments. When applying, break up soil and add layer of compost or organic matter.  
Early spring is the best time to divide fall blooming plants, prior to new growth. Late summer and fall is the best time to divide spring/summer blooms.  Moisten soil and remove dead debris, then insert two garden forks, back to back in the middle to separate plant into two sections. Dig hole twice as deep and wide, moisten, and throw in some organic matter before placing plant.
These are a few garden tasks so when active planting is in full season, you will be ready to go. Any questions? Refer to University Maryland Extension Home and Garden information center.