After our long and snowy winter, everyone is excited for spring. Gardeners are anxious to get their fingers in the dirt. The spring season is an exercise in patience as the weather is warm one day and snowy and windy the next.
As we are looking around the yard, most of us are finding a lot of winter damage. Due to our deep snow cover, deer and rabbits had a difficult time finding food. So, they invited themselves to our yards and gardens and had a feast. If you had protected your trees and shrubs with wire cages or tree wrap, damage is appearing above the snow line. The winter winds have caused dieback to stems and buds. Sunscald is showing up on young, thin barked trees.
If the trunk of the tree is girdled all the way around, it will not survive. It may leaf out, but will not live. If the branches are chewed all the way around, they can be pruned. It may be necessary to check if a branch is alive by scraping the bark. It is alive if green tissue is found under the bark. If not green, it is dead and needs to be removed. All broken branches should be removed. You may want to let shrubs grow out for a season and reshape them next year.
Trees with sunscald will have areas of dried or cracked bark on the south or southwest side of the trunk. If damage is not too severe, the trees produce new growth on the bark along the split and heal themselves.
Perennials are just waking up from their winter nap. So, it’s a little early to access winter damage. When you begin to uncover them, keep the mulch close by. It may be necessary to cover the new growth in the event of a hard freeze. Many plants survive our winters, but are killed by a late spring freeze. When you trim your perennials, remember the pollinators who spent the winter in the stems and among the leaves. It is good to leave the stems and leaves in the garden in a protected place for a couple of weeks, so the pollinators can emerge naturally. Then the stems and leaves can be added to the compost pile.
As you are working in your beds and find you have extra plants, the Master Gardeners are having a plant sale on May 13 in the courthouse parking lot. It is for any home gardener who has extra plants. There is no charge to sell.
Spring is a season of waiting for the gardener. We wait for the soil to dry out so we don’t compact it. We wait for the plants to wake and see who survived the winter. In the meantime we can be sure our tools are sharpened, seeds are purchased and our list ready for the day we go to the greenhouse.