Natural pruning done, outdoor work starting

Wow, that was some wind Sunday, did a lot of pruning of dead branches on the trees. Thank goodness it was winter and the trees were mostly bare, wind went right through them. I saw a couple of blue spruces that were not so lucky, the dense branches were like a wall and the force of that wind pushed the trees over.

One of my rain barrels was knocked over, then turned right side up before being blown into the neighbor’s yard. And the leaves! Piles of leaves in every corner.

My plan with the leaves is to wait until a mild, non-rainy, non-windy day, and after I rake leaves and plant remnants up to expose plants that will bloom in the spring, I will scatter granular fertilizer (10-10-10 or 12-12-12) in the area.

Few plants are starting to show leaves yet — crocus, tulips, daffodils and naked ladies (resurrection lily) — so the fertilizer is less likely to damage leaves. Plants such as bleeding heart, jack-in-the-pulpit and columbine will come up later.

This is the time when I scatter granular fertilizer around the bases of woody and herbaceous perennials. Examples of woody perennials that get this treatment are forsythia, current bushes, rose and lilac. Examples of herbaceous perennials that get the treatment include peony, asparagus, lilies, purple cone flower and black-eyed susans. You are supposed to scratch the fertilizer into the soil, but I figure the raking disturbs the soil surface enough.

It is about sugaring season, when rising sap in maple trees is tapped to make maple syrup. That also means woody plants are soon to break dormancy, so now is the time to prune anything that still needs it (but not spring flowering shrubs). I more or less pruned fruit trees but not evergreens. Yew bushes that put on growth after a summer prune need a haircut.

Yew bushes usually are shaped and now there are small branches sticking up that make it unsightly. I like to prune them so that new growth this spring will not be on the sticking-up branches.

If you have yews or other woody shrubs that are threatening to take over, now is the time to really prune them to the size you want. Then, when they start spring growth, it will be on the size of shrub you want. I feel bad when a plant has put a lot of effort into new growth and then I chop it all out; better to chop now before growth starts.

The cold, the rain, the wind have kept us inside getting cabin fever, but I am a list maker so I bide my time making lists of what needs to be done outside when the weather eases. The list helps me plan what supplies need to be bought (potting soil, paint, weed killer), so when there’s a sunny, warm day, I’m ready to go.

I’m also working on the garden plan and marking a calendar of when to start seed indoors or outdoors. The red amaryllis is blooming now, they are not quite Christmas bloomers but the cheer is appreciated on gloomy days.

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

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