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Weekend Life

Learning to Grow: Spring is a little like love

Cool weather and moist soil make spring a terrific time for dividing and transplanting perennials and ornamental grasses.
Cool weather and moist soil make spring a terrific time for dividing and transplanting perennials and ornamental grasses.

Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to love! Well, so said Tennyson, anyway.

For me, spring is that intoxicating time when there is still a glimmer of hope that this could be the year all my ambitious schemes and plans for the garden will finally be realized. And if you’re like me, after spending the gray winter months curled up with a stack of seed catalogs and an overzealous imagination, the romance of the first snowfall is a distant memory.

We’re eager to trade the howling wind and glowering skies, the snowshoes and the ski poles for a shiny pair of Wellington boots and the exhilarating air of spring. And while it’s a bit soon to undertake any major plantings, you can channel some of that energy into projects that will contribute to the success of your garden over the course of the season to come.

The first thing to do is bundle up (remember that bracing spring air that seemed so invigorating just a minute ago?), take to the great outdoors, and survey the damages. Rake out leaves and debris, windblown litter, snapped twigs, and dead annuals, and remove wind and storm damaged branches from trees. If you left your herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses standing for winter interest, now is a good time to cut them back. Summer flowering shrubs that bloom on the current year’s growth can be pruned now as well, but wait to prune spring bloomers like lilacs, rhododendrons, and forsythias until after they’ve flowered.

Cool weather and moist soil make spring a terrific time for dividing and transplanting perennials and ornamental grasses. Plants divided just as new growth is emerging should respond well to being transplanted, and they have the subsequent growing season to recover from the disturbance and develop a strong root system.

Despite all that preparation, it’ll be hard to shake the heightened restlessness that seems to mark our days when spring is around the corner.

After all, these are the heady days when anything is still possible. We’re on the cusp of something bright and new, and our daydreams are filled with promise and anticipation of the season to come. And maybe that is, just a little bit, like love.

• Sarah Marcheschi is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166.

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