Spring is finally here and we are all anxious to get back to our flower gardens. After this long winter, it is hard to imagine that there are actually living plants under all that snow, but they are there waiting to rise to the sun and the beginnings of a new growing season.

There are many chores to be done in early spring to ensure a healthy, beautiful garden throughout the growing season. The first step is to clean up the garden by cutting back fall blooming plants that were left for winter interest, and cleaning out the leaves and any other plant clutter from the flower bed. Deposit all of the debris into your compost pile for future use. Take note of your plants as you move along, looking at the size and health of the plants.

Assess the soil condition in the garden. Dig down into the bed and see if the soil is still a nice healthy color. Does the soil break up easily or is it hard and compacted? And yes, worms are good! If necessary, add amendments to the soil in the form of compost. If you don’t have a compost pile of your own, there are products available at many local garden centers. Dig the compost into the soil between and around your plants.

Take a step back and look over your garden bed. Are there any plants that just don’t seem happy in the light and water conditions of the garden? Are there any plants that have outgrown their space and need to be divided? Are there spaces where new plants are needed? Do you simply not like a plant as much as you thought you would when you planted it?

Get your shovel or perennial fork and dig the plants that are unhappy in the bed, replant them in another garden spot where they will receive the light and water requirements for them to flourish.

Dig up and divide the plants that have outgrown their space, replanting a portion in the bed and the remaining pieces in another garden. If you don’t have a garden spot available for the excess plants, share them with a friend or neighbor or dig them into a corner of your vegetable plot until you have a permanent location for them. Such a location in your vegetable plot to put excess plants is also a good spot for newly purchased plants until you can determine their needs and habits.

Then comes the fun part – shop your local plant nurseries and Farmers’ Markets for hardy perennials and shrubs to fill in any bare spots or to enlarge the size of the garden. Local farms and nurseries are great sources for hardy, locally grown plants that can survive tough Maine winters.

Find plants that bloom in the spring, summer and fall so that you have something flowering throughout the growing season. Talk to the people at your local farm or nursery for advice on planting locations, soil and water requirements, and ongoing care of the plants you purchase. Although no flower garden is completely carefree, the right plant in the right location certainly can cut down on maintenance.

Take note of good locations to plant fall bulbs for those welcome early spring blooms. I tuck popsicle sticks in the best spots for bulbs keeping in mind that the bulb foliage will die back and making sure I have a perennial to come up and hide that foliage. When the time comes, fall bulbs can be planted one at a time using a bulb tool or you can dig a large circular hole and plant numerous bulbs together for a larger show.

Once you have cleaned your flower bed and moved or planted new perennials, it is time to mulch the bed. Mulching serves many purposes in a garden. It assists with water retention, reduces weeds, gives your garden a clean finished look and, depending on your choice of mulch, it nourishes the plants.

There are many different types of mulches available, but the best mulches are those that will break down over time to amend your soil. I personally use a nice dark brown compost mulch. It looks great all season and feeds my gardens at the same time.

The only thing left is to site a bench or a couple of comfortable chairs close by so that you can pour yourself a glass of lemonade and enjoy the beauty of your hard work!

For more information on spring garden chores, contact Cindy at 577-1612 or visit www.MeadowRidgePerennials.com.

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