Garden Tasks for Late Winter or Early Spring

Fine Gardening – Issue 209
garden tasks for early spring
Photo: courtesy of Jason Reeves

After the darkest days of winter have passed, most gardeners are looking for any excuse to get outside and start working. When spring fever strikes, here are some constructive ways of using that burst of energy to get your garden off to a great start.

1. Give a conifer a haircut

Some conifers can benefit from shearing in late winter, before new growth appears, to achieve a certain look. Cultivars such as yews (Taxus spp. and cvs., Zones 5–8), ‘Rubicon’ white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Rubicon’, Zones 4–8), and ‘Franky Boy’ arborvitae (Thuja orientalis ‘Franky Boy’, Zones 5–8; pictured) respond well to such pruning.

2. Cut back evergreen perennials

Before spring growth begins, trim plants with evergreen leaves such as liriope (Liriope cvs., Zones 7–11), epimediums (Epimedium spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9), and Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides, Zones 3–9). Once the new leaves emerge, it is hard to remove the old dying foliage without damaging the new.

3. Renew a shrub

Cut back branches that are more than two years old near the base, before they begin to leaf out, to encourage vigorous new growth on pussy willows (Salix spp. and cvs., Zones 4–8) and redtwig dogwoods (Cornus alba, Zones 3–7; C. sanguinea, Zones 5–7; C. sericea, Zones 3–7; and C. amomum, Zones 5–8).

4. Go shopping

Check out your local nursery or garden center to see what is in bloom or has colorful or interesting bark that you can add to your garden.

5. Tidy up your grasses

When ornamental grasses start looking tattered, breaking off, and blowing about the garden, cut them back to 3 to 6 inches above the ground.

late winter early spring plants

Plants That Bloom in Late Winter or Early Spring

Treat yourself to some plants that will liven up the garden from late winter to early spring. Find the best flowers to start the year off right in your garden.

Contributing editor Jason Reeves is curator of the University of Tennessee Gardens in Jackson. He can be followed on Facebook at “Jason Reeves – in the garden.”

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