9 Steps For A Vibrant Flowering Garden
By giving your summer blooms a solid head start this spring, you can ensure that your blooming trees, flowers and shrubs will flourish well into the hotter summer months. From staking the proper plant supports and enriching your soil to testing your watering system, there are a handful of crucial steps to take this spring in preparation for summer.
We’ve curated a short and manageable list of spring to-dos that will get you and your yard in shape for the warmer weather ahead. If you’re short on time, pair down these to-dos so that they’re manageable with your schedule. Or better yet, spread them out over a few weekends.
Spring clean garden beds
Late April to early May is a great time to give your flower and garden beds some much needed TLC. Hollow, pithy stems and leaf litter provide overwintering insects and bees protection. Learn more about how and when to begin garden prep while simultaneously supporting overwintering bees.
- Clear debris from ornamental garden beds – it is best to use a flexible leaf rake to avoid damaging plants or disturbing shallow roots. These debris make for great compost material. Clearing damp debris can prevent excess moisture which can turn to mold.
- Remove winter mulch – if you mulched in the fall, now is a good time to clear it. This process is best done by hand and allows new growth to emerge unharmed and unscarred. If there’s still a threat of frost, it’s too early!
- If weeds have begun to rear their ugly heads, it’s time to give them the boot.
Enriching your soil with organic matter is critical for a prosperous, healthy garden. Our team at Molbak’s prefers to use organic amendments and natural mulch whenever possible. If you’re curious about what mulch to use, check out our blog. Did you know that since 2020, Molbak’s has exclusively carried organic soil and amendments?
The cool, moist weather of spring provides the ideal conditions for dividing your perennials. A general rule of thumb is that it’s best to divide spring and summer blooming perennials in the fall, and fall blooming perennials in the spring.
Several days of light rain ahead? This is the perfect time to divide. Perennials have differing root systems and the roots should be taken into consideration before you begin. New to dividing plants? Check out this guide on dividing by root type.
Install + Mend Plant Supports
There are so many great plant supports available for your garden. At Molbak’s we carry a large variety including tried and true standbys.
- Peacock – made in the Netherlands, Peacock plant stakes and supports are made from heavy gauge galvanized steel with a green vinyl coating. We have sliding supports that grow with your plants, support grids for delicate plants as well as heavy duty stakes and support rings.
- C-BITE Garden Clips – founded here in the PNW, C-BITEs can be installed and adjusted with ease and stored away in the winter. Watch this how-to video on C-BITE plant supports.
- Artisan Trellis – if you’re on the hunt for a centerpiece, Oregon-based Artisan Trellis offers handmade trellises and arbors for flowering vines and climbers.
Terra Trellis – Known for its stunning Gracie Modern Arbor, Terra Trellises are designed, hand crafted and welded in the USA, made from steel and always weather resistant.
Installing plant supports in your garden creates a framework for trailing and climbing plants. They also lead to more productive, less crowded plants that are easier to deadhead, cut and care for. Not only are they useful but plant supports are the backbone of stunning centerpieces in many flower gardens.
Clean + Sharpen Tools
Clean, sharp gardening tools play a pivotal role in the health of your plants. Rusty, dull and dirty pruning shears, hedge shears and shovels are problematic for several reasons:
- Stress on the tools make them harder to use.
- Dull, rusty, dirty tools can spread viruses, cankers and cause vascular diseases in plants.
- Dull blades can lead to an injury or accident.
- They lead to improperly cut or crushed stems and branches.
If you’re uncomfortable sharpening the tools yourself, you can take them to a professional. Cleaning and sanitizing your garden tools can be done simply and effectively with a few items you probably already have around the house. You can remove rust with a salt and vinegar solution, steel wool and a final dip in a neutralizing water and baking soda bath.
- Using a glass jar or casserole dish soak your rusted tool in a solution of two tablespoons of salt and enough vinegar to cover the rusted blades. If needed, take the tool apart beforehand. Keep submerged for 12-24 hours.
- What rust is left can be scrubbed off using a steel wool pad.
- Finally, neutralize the blades by soaking them in water and two tablespoons of baking soda for 10 minutes.
- Proceed to sharpening.
Prune Rhodies, Azaleas + Shrubs
While serious pruning should be done in the fall, light pruning can take place in the spring to encourage and maintain plant vigor. It’s also important to remember that pruning is often done as both an art form and a science. Think about your end goal before beginning.
The American Rhododendron Society offers a great resource for pruning rhododendrons and azaleas for compactness, special effects and rejuvenation.
Shape Flowering Trees
Pruning is often an overwhelming task. If you’re feeling some anxiety about pruning your flowering trees, you aren’t alone. It’s good to remember that not everyone prunes in the same fashion, even the experts. There is room for creativity as long as you follow a few basic rules.
1. Prune according to bloom:
- Trees and shrubs that bloom early (before the end of June) should be cut back right after flowering. This ensures you don’t accidentally cut off the previous season’s growth.
- Late season bloomers should be pruned before they flower. This is because the development of the blooms occurs in spring.
- Heading Back – shortening branches to a good bud or lateral branch. Don’t leave a stub. Experts suggest making your cut about ¼ inch ABOVE an active bud or lateral branch.
- Pinching – this is a technique done by hand and controls the size of the plant.
- Thinning – This technique is performed to alter the size and overall shape of a tree. Be sure not to cut into the branch collar, the area at the base of the limb right next to the main trunk. This can result in tree infection.
Maintain Bird Amenities
Of course a properly maintained bird bath or house doesn’t equate to future blooms, but birds are our friends and we like to give them reason to hang around and peck at the ground.
Providing native plants for birds ensures that they have a healthy food resource and shelter. Molbak’s encourages the addition of native plants to any yard or outdoor space. Lilacs and mid-level shrubs provide great coverage for our avian friends like finches, sparrows and wrens.
Clean water sources like bird baths and fountains are great bird attractions. Spring is a great time to scrub down your bird baths and fountains to prevent the growth of disease-causing organisms. This can be done with an eco- pet-friendly 9:1 water and vinegar solution.
Dust off your bird feeders with a bristled brush and give them a deep clean with a water and bleach solution. It’s important to use a solution with a 9:1 water, bleach ratio and wear gloves.
Last but not least, prevent bird collisions by following these simple fixes.
Test Watering + Irrigation Equipment
If you’ve opted to install a drip irrigation system in your garden beds, spring is a great time to test them out and inspect for wear and tear.
- Flush out the irrigation hoses by opening / de-clamping the end and allowing water to flow for 1-2 minutes.
- Once reclamped allow the water to flow and look for geysers to repair. Easily repair missing emitters, misplaced holes, bad connectors, shovel cuts and plugs with goof plugs, new connectors and other easy to find replacement parts.
- Thread seal hose couplings and hose bibs with thread seal tape and make sure all connections are tightened properly.
- Hoses can deteriorate in the sun. A layer of mulch over hoses can protect them from the elements.
Looking for more gardening tips and water conservation tricks? Head on over to our event calendar.