The days are lengthening, the birds are coming back and many people are itching to get into their gardens. The questions are what should we consider before we put on our gardening gloves and how do we go about this task?
First, we need to consider the outdoor temperature. If the daytime temperature is consistently above 10C, it’s time to don those gloves and grab your rake and pruning shears. By waiting a little longer than you might want, you give beneficial insects like ladybugs, assassin bugs, and damsel bugs which over-winter in leaf litter have a chance to wake up which gives them a fighting chance to help your garden and the larger ecology.
Secondly, once you have raked your perennial beds and have them tidied up for a good growing season, wait to mulch them. It’s a very satisfying chore to mulch beds knowing the mulch will keep the weeds down, but holding off a little longer until the soil warms and dries out a bit will give beneficial and beautiful creatures like the luna moth a chance to emerge from the soil. Mulching too early might disrupt their life cycle.
Thirdly, take great care when pruning back woody perennials and shrubs. Keep an eye out for butterfly chrysalises. Some of our most beautiful moths and butterflies literally hang out on branches for the winter. If you see a chrysalis, make a note to cut that branch back a little later in the season.
Take your time to enjoy the ritual of spring garden clean up knowing not only will your gardens look great, but you have done a little to help our pollinators and other beneficial insects get a good start to their growing season.