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Eco Spring Clean up Tips

Updated: May 16, 2023

As we are now officially in Spring, garden clean up may be on your mind. I know it is on ours! But how to do it and still provide a healthy ecosystem?

Here are some tips from Master Garden, Pawel Pieluszynski, of the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Pieluszynski suggests: "As spring approaches, it’s time to prepare the garden for all of its burgeoning fresh new growth. Dry perennial stems that have been left up for winter interest (or “winterest” as I like to call it) and food sources for overwintering birds can still have enormous ecological benefits in the oncoming growing season. In years past, the standard practice was to hack these leftover stems all the way to the ground. We now know, however, that these old stems are ideal breeding habitat for stem-nesting bees and a variety of other insects. Therefore, these stems can be cut down to a height of around 12 to 18 inches and be allowed to persist throughout the year to facilitate healthy insect biodiversity in our yards and gardens. A favorable technique is to use shears to continuously cut the stem from the top-down in around inch-intervals to the desired height, leaving these small pieces to fall as mulch. Leaving these small stem fragments has added benefits, as they can still contain overwintering insect larvae and pupae which can then continue to develop and emerge later in the spring."

If you, like us, often find that you need to relocate plants like shrubs and perennials, early spring before growth begins is usually the best time to do it. I compare it to moving a sleeping child from the car to their crib. They both wake up happy, not seeming to know they have ever been moved!

That said, it is always a good idea to do a little research on your specific plant with reputable sources (like RHS or university departments) before getting out your shovel.

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