The spring garden: Five early season tasks for Hudson Valley gardeners

Get your soil ready before planting

Five early season tasks for Hudson Valley gardeners

Even before the first hints of spring I start preparing for the gardening season ahead. While images of lush landscapes dance in my head, replacing the recent sugar fairies of the winter holidays, evidence of winter’s havoc is all too real when I step outside. While I’ve been leafing through gardening magazines and seed catalogs in front of a toasty woodstove, branches have been breaking, leaves have been left on the lawn, and the deer have been working up an appetite. It’s time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.


Catch up with the leaves
Before any of the fun stuff can begin, I focus on cleaning up the winter mess. Despite my yearly pledge to be diligent and rake the leaves, Mother Nature drops cold, wet weather on our heads before I’ve had a chance to get the job done. An easy solution for those leaves left behind is to mow them up. I wait for a sunny day when the leaves are drier. Chopped by the mower blades, they’ll break down in the compost bin and provide nutrients and organic matter when I spread the resulting compost on the flowerbeds. If there are not too many leaves on the grass, mow them and just rake them around. They’ll feed the lawn when they decompose.

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Remove damaged branches

Now is a good time to walk around your yard looking for damaged shrubs or broken branches and limbs. Using clean, sharp pruning shears or a handsaw, trim back the damaged parts to good wood. Just be sure to make your cuts clean and smooth and they should heal nicely. If large trees have suffered storm damage, it’s best to call in a professional.


Peel back winter mulch

After you’ve dealt with the lawn and winter damage you can begin to remove any winter mulch you may have put down to protect your flowerbeds and shrubs. You can do this little by little, using your judgment with regard to weather. Remember, Hudson Valley springs can be deceiving. Who hasn’t been tricked with warm glorious spring days only to be followed by cold rain, sleet or snow?! Early spring is a good time to apply an inch of compost around your plants. No need to scratch it in, microorganisms and worms will do the job for you. Feed the earth, the earth will feed the plants, and your garden will flourish.


Barbara Bravo is a Garden Coach, Master Gardener and Ceramic Artist. She has 24 years experience gardening in Ulster County where the wildlife is plentiful and where she continues to learn peaceful co-existence.