by Charlotte Vorstermans, Master Gardener, SCMG.
Don’t hurry that spring cleanup! A basic guide as to why.
Yes, the weather is getting warmer and the sun is out and you’re just itching to get to that garden to start cleaning up. DON’T!!!! It is much too early and many of the insects are still waiting to come out from under all that garden debris, or as I like to say the winter blanket. I usually don’t start until early to mid-April, just in case. I want to give them all an opportunity to flee!
You’re probably wondering just what kind of insects am I talking about? There are ladybugs, beetles, ground nesting bumble bees, and a host of other insects, both beneficial and predatory. Many non-migratory species of butterflies and moths overwinter in leaf litter. A successful garden needs both to shine. They are hiding under all those leaves in your perennial beds, on in old withered canes, or under those mushy hosta and daylily leaves.
Since I have a lot of early blooming spring bulbs starting to come up, I do go outside and gently move the leaves around the crocuses, primroses, hellebores and tulips, but nothing drastic. As the spring progresses and the ground is getting soft, bring out the rake and again, gently, only rake what you have to. Leave those leaves on the beds, they are fertilizer! In a few weeks when the plants start to grow, you will not notice them but the soil thanks you. Our soil is full of living organisms, so take care when digging and try to limit the use of a rototiller! I try to be organic as I possibly can but it is not always easy especially if you have a very large garden. Use compost on your beds if you are lucky enough to have some. This need not be a yearly chore either. I never have enough compost to do all the beds so I rotate every year as to what beds get lucky!