Spring cleaning your landscape

When it comes to spiffing up your yard, less is more. Overwintering wildlife appreciate old blooms and fallen leaves to use as habitat.

Following winter freezes and an ice storm that were particularly hard on our gardens, many folks are wondering where to begin. But when it comes to spring cleaning your yard, less is more.

Overwintering wildlife appreciate old blooms and fallen leaves to use as habitat. Since a wildscape is not everyone’s garden style, consider leaving a few shaggy areas that are out of view or in the back yard to help them out.

Since many perennials lost their leaves this winter, it can be difficult to determine if they’re still alive. If fresh new leaves aren’t showing yet, you can check viability by gently scratching the stem bark with a fingernail. Green underneath means the branch is likely still alive.

Other favorites like Turk’s cap may die all the way to the ground even without a hard freeze. You likely can already see new leaves peeking out from the ground. To refresh these and other perennials, cut last year’s dead above-ground stems. Cutting them back encourages vigorous growth and gives your yard a tidy look.

As for trees, it may take until Easter to see new leaves on many species. Since thousands of trees on the North side sustained broken limbs during the ice storm last month, it’s worth repeating that oak trees should only be pruned in the winter — never in spring — to prevent the spread of oak wilt. Any pruning of oaks undertaken now should definitely be performed by a licensed arborist.

Regardless of the species, trees don’t need to be trimmed every year. Save yourself some money and only trim your trees every few years. Never cut more than a quarter of the canopy.

Of course, visit for more tips on spring pruning and lots of ideas to keep your yard thriving.

Picture of Kevin Pride
Kevin Pride
Kevin is a SAWS Conservation Field Investigator and a self-proclaimed nature boy. He has a background in restoration ecology and is zealous about native plant landscapes that use zero irrigation. Kevin spends his free time deep underground surveying caves or hiking barefoot with his daughter, Daisy, and their dog.
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