Give your garden a spring cleaning

Like many, I’ve been surprised by winter’s desire to bring rain, wind and cold temperatures. But now, we all expect spring to march in, and with each passing day the odds of additional blustery weather are likely decreasing.

Catharine, who has dedicated her weekends to tending to her apple and bulbs, between writing and surfing, is preparing a container for early girl tomatoes. Other garden fanatics, like Ann and Byron, have already planted lettuce and basil, and readied their garden for social gatherings.

Begin your own spring chores with the trees or your tallest shrubs. Pruning out deadwood, weak or diseased branches, and keeping the height of your trees under control will allow you to maintain a healthy tree. A residual benefit is the preservation of views for not only yourself, but for your neighbors. If your trees are too tall to safely reach with your pruning equipment, contact a qualified tree service.

Foundation shrubs, flowering plants and vines also need attention. If a plant is doing poorly in a particular location, place it in a spot more favorable to its requirements. Prune carefully to remove damaged or weak stems and branches, dead flower or seed parts, and branches that have overgrown the intended space. Don’t be afraid to prune or pinch; the plant will grow back!


The number of garden pests you’ll discover during your initial inspection may surprise you. Aphids, snails, slugs, and thrips are just a few that can be identified by visual sighting or the damage they cause. Holes in leaves, deformed flowers, sticky residue, insect frass or slime trails are strong signs that something bad may be breeding. Many pests and diseases can be managed by sensible and safe alternatives from strong pesticides and are available from your local nursery.

Now that you’re finished with the cleanup, it’s time to make your garden plant friendly. Fertilize and mulch everything, including new planting beds. Spring is the most important season to provide nutrition. Be sure to check the sprinkler system for leaks and coverage before you need to use it during periods of warm weather or vacation away from home.

Resist the temptation to horticulturally keep up with a garden fanatic, unless you have the time and inclination. It is OK to cast an envious glance at their perfect irises, freesias and croci this month. You meant to plant bulbs, but you were busy at the Vancouver Olympics. Buy a dozen tulips Saturday and pretend they are from your garden. Trust me, you’ll feel good about it.

STEVE KAWARATANI is married to writer Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to .