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It's Time for Spring Clean up

Hasn't this spring weather been amazing? I have loved the slow warm up and now the rain. I love watching the earth come alive and search for new green shoots pushing up through the ground every day.

I saw a meme the other day of the plants point of view and shows a human face close up staring at it. Yup, thats me every day, walking around looking for signs of life and rejoicing at my little plants pushing up through the ground.

So in March we talked about how important it is to prepare the soil for your medicinal garden to be successful. Today lets talk about spring clean up of the gardens. This is also a crucial step in having a successful garden. Clean up entails thinning of plants, transplanting, mulching, removing unwanted plants and weeds and removing plants that did not make it through the winter. If this step is skipped you will regret the overgrown sections of garden and your medicinal plants will not be as vigorous.

Every spring I have to remove unwanted plants. The birds and squirrels in my yard are amazingly effective in planting seeds where I don't want them.

This year I had to remove lots of Angelica in strange places, valerian (cause I didn't dead head the flower), catnip (I swear that stuff walks to where it wants to be) and baby trees.

While we had a mild winter this year, I think the hot weather and less rain last year just did it in for one of my grapes. Yanked that one out and found new purpose for it's spot.

I am also spending time removing old growth from last year. I leave my stems and plants in place during the winter to allow spots for ladybugs to over winter and don't clean it up until I see growth above ground. This is one of the more time consuming, tedious tasks of gardening. I love seeing the life coming back to the plant though after that long season of hibernation.

If stems are not woody, I try to leave the dead plant material on the ground to provide organic matter to the soil.

This is an excellent time to reign in those plants that have spread too much. Here you can see my arnica growing into my monarda. Both monarda and arnica like to double their growth over winter. When spring comes, BOOM, you have double the plants, and that can be overwhelming. Time to thin and make friends by sharing plants. Anything in the mint family (including Monarda) are major spreaders and need containment barriers or time thinnig them out each spring.

I will be sharing arnica with the community medicinal garden, a local park and I have some young herbalists just getting started coming over next week.... guess what I will be sharing with them?

Remember to give your plants plenty of space to grow and breathe. You will have more productive plants if you take time to thin.

Sometimes thinning means cutting the plant in half and transplanting somewhere else. Other times you just need to pull a few plants and roots out to give that breathing space.

Don't forget your trees and bushes need attention in the spring as well. Spring is the best time, before it fully leafs out or flowers. I use a lot of trees and bushes for medicinal purposes and I make sure to thin out all those suckers that like to pop up in spring. I also thin out branches so they are not growing into each other and allowing plenty of air space to flow through bush.

If I skip this step with my currants, for example, I will have aphids. Yuck. Make sure there is air flow in and through that bush.

Lastly, don't clean up all those leaves that fell on your garden bed and overwintered. They make excellent mulch and organic matter. I have a few spots where the wind will blow the leaves from the neighborhood into a nice pile. Those I remove and place in my leaf mold pile. You don't want a "thick" pile of leaves on top of your plants, but don't throw them away.

Go out there and enjoy this beautiful weather, amazingly bright shades of green, fresh smell of earth and songs of the birds happily building their nests. I love this time of year. Don't forget to get into the woods and enjoy the emerging and blooming of the wild flowers as well.

Happy spring and wishing you a productive, healthy garden this year.

If you have questions, don't forget to join us on Tuesdays evenings at the Hope and Joy Community Medicinal Garden in Dilworth. See our FB page for details.

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