The Garden Beckons: Pruning to Soil Preparation

Get ready for spring!

| February/March 1997

This time of year, when it’s no longer winter but not quite spring, I’m eager to be outside. I long for the sun’s heat on my sweatered back, the smell of moist soil, the sight of pink earthworms. I treasure each blossom of early spring—disproportionately from other times of the year, considering the drifts of spicy pinks and rosy creeping thyme blossoms that will come later. I even celebrate the first yellow dandelion in the lawn, though perhaps I’ll feel less charitable toward its multitude of children later in the summer.

Now is when I give “conceptual garden tours”. Waving my arms about broadly, I stop to point out the comfrey that will soon be growing in just that spot, or the horseradish, currently dormant, or the pineapple mint that will soon boast shoots of soft green-and-white leaves. I wonder if the plants look better in my mind’s eye than in real life. Of course, not everyone can see them.

A few herbs are clearly visible, however. The frost-felled parsley has recovered and is a cheerful emerald green behind the yellow crocuses, white snowdrops, and sky blue pansies. Yellow tassels of coltsfoot on naked scapes are up long before the leaves appear, giving rise to another common name, sons-before-fathers. Evergray lavender leaves shine silver in the sun.

The interval between winter and spring is the ideal time to do some outside spring cleaning and get a fresh start on the new gardening year. Keeping a gardening notebook has been a big help in reminding me what needs to be done. Each year, I record my successes and failures, make resolutions, and note ideas I glean from spring flower shows for plant placement and new plants and combinations to try. Sketches of my beds remind me of the location of dormant plants.

Use your imagination and walk with me through my garden as I go about my spring chores.

Prune away

Now is the time to prune almost everything. In cooler climates, herbs such as catnip, horehound, winter savory, lemon balm, and oregano are more likely to survive a winter if the old stalks are left uncut in the fall; by now, they’re ready for a cleanup. Here in Atlanta, sweet marjoram, pineapple sage, velvet sage (Salvia leucantha), Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida), and scented geraniums also overwinter better if left uncut. With newly sharpened clippers, I cut the old, dead stems down to the ground, making way for the new shoots that will emerge from the crown. I lift the evergreen boughs from borderline-hardy herbs such as prostrate rosemary. Snipping off winter-burned tips of sage, rosemary, and other herbs encourages new growth and a bushier shape. I take the trimmings to the compost pile or add them to a final fragrant blaze in the fireplace.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!


Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265