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It’s a Spring Practice Run

We all know, after living and gardening in Cincinnati, that this bout of warm weather is just a fleeting moment and winter will resume it’s regular programming next week. We also have in the back of our minds all of the early spring garden chores that await us. To have a few days to work in the garden, to feel the soil in our hands, no matter how cold it is, to pull a few weeds, and to make a dent in the spring chores is such a good feeling. I would, however, like to share a few words of warning before you set out to the garden. Let’s not walk in the garden beds. Yes, that weed is taunting you, daring you to pull it, but to walk in the garden isn’t worth compressing our healthy, loose soil, disturbing ground nesting bees, or trampling on perennials and spring ephemerals just below the surface. And of course, we don’t want to cut back any plants. The summer perennials may look a bit ragged, some may be stripped of their seeds, but within those stems are hibernating bees. Your messy garden is supporting native pollinators, so leave it standing.

What I’m doing today, to take advantage of this warmer, sunnier day, is to pull weeds from our garden paths. We’re hosting an event tomorrow, and if the sun is out, I do believe a few guests will walk about the gardens. It’s not in bloom, of course, but our guests will be learning about planting with nature and how the winter garden plays a vital role in supporting native pollinators. Tomorrow may be an excellent time for them to see which plants look the best this time of year. For many, it may be the first time they see plants in winter since many gardeners still cut their gardens back in the late fall. Perhaps some time spent in our winter garden will inspire them to leave their garden standing next winter. So, I’ll clear the paths to make the stroll more inviting, and I will edit weeds from garden beds which I can easily pull while remaining on the path.

Perhaps the most important task I’m taking on as I putter about the garden today is evaluating what’s missing. As I study the gardens, I see that some areas will benefit from the addition of native grasses. Native grasses soften the rigid, upright habit of many summer blooming perennials, add movement to the winter garden, and support native insects. Finding space to add more native grasses is always a good idea.

I’m also taking stock of our garden’s seed cache. Are all of the Rudbeckia maxima stripped of their seeds? I look about the garden and evaluate the supply of Echinacea seeds. If the garden is critically low on seeds to feed the birds, that’s my cue to add more of such plants this spring.

Taking advantage of these warm, sunny days to review your garden may be the most important garden chore you do. Those weeds will wait until another day to be pulled. To have the time to sit and ponder, and to make plans and plant shopping lists becomes more difficult when spring truly arrives, and we’re pulled every which way in the garden.

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