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May Brings Flowers: Spring Garden Clean-Up

May 02, 2017 12:05PM ● By Linda Ditch
As the weather starts to warm up, gardeners’ minds turn to spring planting. A little planning now can help produce healthy and lush flower and vegetable gardens throughout the growing season.

Start by checking in at your favorite garden center, such as Longacres Nursery Center in Lebanon ( The knowledgeable staff there can help you select the best plants for your garden needs and perhaps suggest a few new ones. And this Saturday, May 6, from 10am to 4pm, Longacres will offer tool sharpening to make all your garden chores go more smoothly. The cost is $5 each for most tools.

Existing garden beds and lawns will need some cleaning up after winter. Often there are leftover leaves as well as broken branches and sticks that have accumulated since the last growing season. Just be sure you don’t remove mulch from protected plants too soon to keep them safe from any late-season cold snaps. Plus, be prepared to cover newly planted flowers or veggies with an old sheet or tarp if frost is predicted.

While cleaning the garden beds of winter debris, pruning may be necessary to remove damaged limbs and branches from trees, shrubs, and larger perennial plants. However, before you start, know what you’re pruning. Trim spring-blooming plants after they bloom. If you prune them too early, you will cut off all the flowers before they bloom.

As soon as the ground has thawed and dried out from any melting snow, it’s time to get the garden beds ready for new plants and seeds. However, be sure you don’t work the soil too early. Wet soil can easily become compacted when walked on, making it difficult for roots to grow later on. Digging the soil after it dries out will keep it loose and plant friendly.

Test the soil for moisture by picking up a handful and squeezing it together into a ball. Then try breaking it apart. If it crumbles easily in your hand, the soil is ready to dig. However, if it breaks apart into large clumps, or not at all, wait for it to dry out more.

Garden soil should be tested every three to five years to determine what nutrients need to be added for the best plant growth. This can be done though the University of New Hampshire Extension ( or the University of Vermont Extension (

Adding compost to the garden bed is always a good idea. It will help replenish the soil from the last growing season and get it ready for the next. Bags of compost are available at garden centers, or you can use your own compost from a backyard bin or pile.

If you’re a first-time gardener, you could benefit from a mentor. However, if you don’t know someone with a green thumb, both the UNH and UVM Master Gardeners programs offer a call line to answer your questions, and they host classes where you can get the how-to information you need. You can also check out Sean's Lawn N' Garden Services. Just check out their websites, and then get planting!

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