STAMFORD, Conn. -- Spring has arrived early in Fairfield County, and it’s time to prepare your perennial garden for the upcoming season. We will still have an occasional frost -- and even possibly snow -- but the mild winter and the unseasonably warm month of March has made this the time to break out the trowels and planters.
To prepare your garden, start by cutting back any remaining dead perennial foliage from last season and rake the garden clean of leaves/branches and other debris. A leaf blower or rake may can be used, but take caution not to rake away too much good soil, mulch or nutrients. If possible, remove debris from atop the perennials and keep the area neat and attractive. The mild winter has resulted in significant weed growth this spring; now is the best time to remove them.
Perennial gardens should be fertilized each spring; organic fertilizers by Espoma can do the trick. Holly Tone works wonders for acid loving plants and shrubs and Plant Tone can be used for rest of the garden. The fertilizer can be spread by hand over the garden with a hard plastic cup. Be careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions especially when fertilizing delicate seedlings as to not over fertilize.
Applying mulch to your perennial garden greatly enhances its appearance. In addition to superior aesthetics, mulch protects perennials from harsh weather, reduces evaporation, helps control the soil temperature and greatly inhibits the ability of weeds to germinate. Two inches of mulch is usually enough, be careful not to mulch over the top of small/delicate perennials or to mound the mulch up on the base of a shrub or tree bark. Compost mulch is best for supplying nutrients to the garden but not the best at blocking weeds. Bark mulch should be shredded until it has an “earthy” quality. Large “wood chip” mulch is the least efficient form of mulch.
Ideally all of these steps – cleaning, weeding, fertilizing and mulching – should be completed in the next few weeks to properly prepare your perennial garden for the upcoming season.