Tag Archives: winter gardening chore

A Garden Cleanup Underway

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Woodstock’

I finished the first stage of the spring garden cleanup on Wednesday, revealing this lovely hyacinth and giving other emerging plants a chance to breathe.

At the end of the day piles of debris were placed in barrels and stacked on tarps out front for monthly yard waste pickup the next morning.  One of the downsides of suburban living is having to pay to have to have material hauled away that, when I lived on a larger lot that was bounded by woods, I used to allow to decompose naturally.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Coral Charm’ (Coral Charm Peony)

I was exhausted from the work and too tired of the chore to think of taking a photo of the waste piles, but there was an impressive mass of stuff. The locally owned waste company offers the removal service of one trash barrel of yard waste per month to customers who agree to participate annually. There is usually one month during the year when I have collected nothing for the pickup, but in late winter there is at least one month when the quantity is immense. That mostly  consists of the prior year’s thick, brown woody stalks, along with whatever fresh green weeds I’ve had time to pluck (weeds are way ahead of me this year). This February’s offering also included a giant and ridiculously heavy crape myrtle limb brought down by the snow storm and branches from an old and dying redbud.

Erysimum ‘Sugar Rush Purple’ (Wallflower)

Each time I have one of these excessive loads I fear it will not be picked up. This has happened only once though in 17 years, when I came home to find the piles still sitting by the front curb tagged with a handwritten note reminding me of the service limits. That time there was a substitute driver I have come to believe.

But the two men who stopped by this morning were unconcerned by the amount of debris. They hopped out of the truck, smiling cheerfully. In a few minutes they had fed last year’s thick, brown woody stalks and tree limbs, the meditation circle’s fresh green weeds, a few rose bush prunings and old leaves from the now-blooming hellebores, into the deep mouth of the grinder.

The machinery chewed quickly, consuming the heavy load in seconds. The friendly men soon were on their way, but not before helping me fold the tarps and rolling the barrels up to the garage.

The interaction with these kind souls, along with the discovery of this anemone in bloom, made my day.

Anemone coronaria ‘Mr. Fokker’

The main garden waste producing culprits I have cleared away so far from last year are:

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower), grows 8-10 feet high and spreads to 4 feet wide. Native but can be invasive. This made big headway last summer when I was not tending the garden. The stalks are strong and heavy.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower), grows about 8-9 feet tall  and spread 2-3 feet.

Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower)

Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower)

Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage), grows 4-5 feet tall, but spreads about 3 feet.

Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage)

Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy). A couple of plants originally, these have spead down the front of a 10-foot border. Last year’s brown stems have to be cut individually away from the plant.

Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)

Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant). Spreads aggressively by rhizomes. This has created a disaster in my northern (southern-facing border).

Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) and Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm), minor sized stems that can be easily broken away from the base, but a chore nevertheless.


Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) and Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)

Some of these plants I could not remove without digging up entire borders, some I would not want to give up. I love them for their flowers and for the way they attract pollinators. So they all remain a part of spring cleanup for the near future.  What takes the most effort in your garden getting ready for spring?

February Kickoff

While many American fans were busy watching the Super Bowl last night I made plans for the garden season opener.  The weather forecast for the week looks decent, high of 48F today then rising into the mid-50s through Sunday, some sunny days, some overcast, but at least no rain for a few days. This gives me a chance to mulch the garden before the plants get out of hand. I placed my order at 8:15 this morning and promptly at 11:30 a truck backed into the drive, dumping 14 cubic yards of double-shredded hardwood mulch. Oh my!

Hardwood Mulch Delivery-14 cubic yards of work

Hardwood Mulch Delivery-14 cubic yards of work

Last year the garden was never completely mulched so this is a chore I really wanted to do.  It will be a challenge to get it all spread quickly, as access to the garden is by way of a narrow little path not easily traversed with a garden cart full of mulch.

After just a couple of hours I was already in want of a break to rest my back, but as expected, the time spent is rewarding. I am trimming back old foliage and stems from last year and closely inspecting each square inch. Progress will be slow but steady. It took this drastic measure of blocking the driveway and garage access to get me out into the garden.  I will not be able to get my car in the garage until I finish this project. Now that I have my playbook for this game, there is nothing left to do but try to win it for the home team.