Spring Is In The Air…But Stay Out Of The Flowerbeds!

by Judi on February 26, 2017

pruning shrubsSpring is in the air…but don’t rush it! Find out which gardening activities to avoid in late winter and which are safe to do.

Spring in Western Wisconsin seems to have arrived a month or more early this year.  It is the week of February 20th (that is when I started writing this) and we have had 40, 50 and 60 degree days already, melting most of the snow.  (Now it is February 25th and we have had cold/blowing snow yesterday and ice.  No spring for today anyway.  Everything is covered with snow.  This is normal for the end of February.)

In the picture above, you can see that we have green grass on Feb. 22 here!  This area was under snow cover for the winter months so the grass stayed green.  We normally hear that our last frost date for this zone 4, average is May 15th.  And, we notoriously have frost at least half the years I can remember at the end of May around Memorial Day!

The early warm weather can leave you itching to get out and take a peek at your outdoor plants, but doing so could harm them. Here are gardening activities to avoid in late winter and what you can do instead. Here are some more tips for early spring gardening.

Gardening Activities To Avoid In Late Winter

Leave Your Plants Covered Up

It is not a time to be out in the yard even thinking of uncovering any perennials or raking!  Let things sleep for another 6 weeks.  You don’t want to uncover any mulch even if they are sprouting up. Don’t dig around the roots at all. Let them sleep. They need the rest time.

Perennials that leaf out too early will be stunted by any late frosts and the flower buds are hurt and do not bloom so pretty or as prolific.  We will more than likely have snow a few times again between now and mid April too.

Save Raking For Later

Raking the lawn too early disturbs the roots of the grass and can pull them right out of the ground, ruining your nice lawn.  Not good for sod at all.  Also, stay off the grass when the frost is coming out so as not to disturb the roots either. And, don’t walk through your perennial beds! If the ground is thawing, it will compact the soil by stepping on the beds.  This is not good for the roots of the plants.

What Can You Do In Your Yard or Garden Right Now?

Trim Select Shrubs And Trees

dormant shrubs late winter
One thing that can be done now is trimming shrubs and trees.  Only do the shrubs that are summer or fall blooming however, or you will lose flowers on them. Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs like Bridal Wreath or Lilacs until right after they flower.

Don’t let overgrown, misshapen, poor flowering and unhealthy shrubs ruin the beauty of your landscape. A little careful pruning can turn lackluster shrubs into beautiful plants later in the season.

Removing older stems with renewal pruning (cutting off the oldest stems at ground level) allows you to control the plant size and shape as well as encourage new controlled growth. Use the stems you cut off as vertical interest in your annual container gardens for things like ivy or petunias to climb on.


On the shrub in the picture above, you can see the larger stems that should be trimmed out each year.  This is a Ninebark and can get unruly unless it is trimmed each year.  I have Hostas underneath the shrub so I like to keep the side branches trimmed off too.  About 4 years ago, I trimmed this Ninebark to the ground, to about 4″ tall.

late winter shrubs

This link below to McKay Nursery has great guidelines for trimming Hydrangeas.  There is a listing of named varieties and the different ways you should trim each one.  (This is why it is a good idea to label your plants both outside and inside so you know what you are growing!).


The Tardiva Hydrangea in the picture above will get 1/4 to 1/3 of the largest stems removed later this spring and the old flower heads trimmed off, as well as any unruly branches.

Make Plans For Dividing Perennials

This time is also good for planning (and writing down) what needs dividing in the perennial bed. If the lawn is dry you can walk around the beds and with a notebook, write down areas that need help this spring. You can write down what you remember from last summer, on which perennials were overgrown.

Clean Your Potting Shed, Pots, And Tools

This is also a good time to go through the potting shed or garage and see what pots can be cleaned up that didn’t get done last fall as well as taking stock of tools that might need replacing. Some garden centers aren’t open for the season yet, so check on line to find things you would want to look for when the garden center opens.

If you really feel the need to work in soil, re-pot and or divide some overgrown houseplants! This always makes me feel good to do in February and March.

Visit A Green House

Or, make a trip to a green house and has houseplants and purchase some new varieties that you have been wanting to try. I like to buy smaller sizes (less $$) but love to see them grow into big beautiful specimens over the next couple of years.  I buy some also to put into pots outside in the summer.  It gives them a head start and I can enjoy them for 2-3 months in the house too!  I buy ivies and taller spike like plants that I use in pots in the summer to get a head start on growing.

Last of all, be Patient! Summer will come soon enough and the time between now and then will go fast!

Happy Gardening from Judi at Favorite Perennials.








{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John C. March 22, 2017 at 5:24 pm

This are great tips you have here. This is my second visit to your site and it has been helpful on the two occasions. The spring is already here and am planning to convert the front yard to a little nice garden, these tips would be helpful. Thanks


Judi March 23, 2017 at 7:53 am

Thank you for the kind words! So nice to know that I have been able to help you out. Judi


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