Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Spring Garden Honey-dos

An dry ornamental grass cut down in front of a brook

Hello, fellow readers,

Indeed, it feels like Spring has arrived early, but don’t let Mother Nature fool you into starting seeds too early in the garden. Check seed packs for when to start them outside. It’s time to start seeds indoors; the rule of thumb is eight weeks before the last predicted frost, May 15th, here.

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Ellie is a pooped pup from Spring Clean-up.

Of course, there are plenty of outside chores to be done. My dear Curt and nephew Josh are scheduled to work together on Saturday, so here are my spring garden honey-dos wishlist items, boys.

Go ahead and cut down the ornamental grasses and butterfly bushes I leave standing for winter interest. Using your chainsaw is okay; I know how much you love power equipment. Cut the grasses just above ground level and the butterfly bushes to about 8 inches above the ground. Please don’t confuse them with the hydrangea you mowed down last year, as I haven’t recovered from the shock. The hydrangea has, though, and maybe with some luck, they’ll bloom this year.

I know, Mr. Fastidious, that you’d love to use your spiffy backpack blower on the decaying leaves in the gardens, but they provide nutrients and help suppress weeds. I promise they aren’t so thick and matted that the perennials won’t come up. Surely you are concerned about that.

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It seems Curt is pooped, too, after Spring To-dos.

I understand your fantasy of a baseball field lawn like your brothers with stripes and everything. But I’m afraid synthetic chemicals are a no-go here. You can spread some corn gluten in the yard, an organic pre-emergent. It won’t kill the weeds there but will prevent new weed seeds from propagating. Weeds don’t bother me, as you know. They’re as green as grass.

Please cut back the dry perennials I left standing to encourage self-seeding and because they look nice, dusted with snow. While you’re at it, if you don’t mind, you can snag the seed heads that didn’t drop and put each kind separately in clean paper cups. There’s no need to label what’s what unless you’re dying to brag about all you’ve learned since being with me.

One more thing, if you don’t mind. The stone patio has patches of algae. I know I said green is good, but algae’s slippery when wet, and I’m concerned for a certain someone who tends to be a tad clumsy. I’d say power wash the patio, but it’s tricky not to blow out the wonderful sedum rooted in the nooks and crannies. I heard that 1/3 cup white vinegar mixed with 2/3 cup water sprayed on the algae might do the trick. Perhaps after you spray, you could scrub each stone individually (keeping away from the joints) and then hose off. You’re the best!

In case I forgot to mention, if you could forgo the chainsaw on the hydrangea and stay clear of the beauty bush, too, that would be great. Happy almost Spring!

Garden dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

There’s more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast (a soothing 10 minutes):

Link to the previous columns:

Starting Veggie & Perennial Seeds Indoors

Vinegar Beyond Salad

Column Updated 3/29/24



Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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