It’s that time of year again to get the garden ready for a flush of growth in the spring. Many gardeners let the flowers and bushes go to seed in the fall, so the birds have something to scavenge over the winter. When spring comes it looks untidy. It also shades the ground and inhibits new seedlings.

Once the possibility of a hard freeze has passed, the first step is to remove debris, dead branches on the ground, fallen leaves and any mulch you used to protect plants against the cold.

Cut back those plants that require pruning in the spring. When the bushes start to break bud for new leaves, remove branches that are dead. You can tell because they won’t have any green fat buds on them. Dead branches are also a greyish brown.

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Break up clods of earth in the beds caused by heaving during the winter. Rake level.

Once the weather has warmed up so the plants are actively growing, feed with water-soluble fertilizer per package direction. Don’t be in a rush to get that fertilizer on the plants if there’s any chance of frost. The fertilizer encourages new tender growth which requires quite a bit of energy from the plant. Frost kills off that new growth which stunts the plant’s growth, It will take longer to recover and start growing again.

Roses are in a class by themselves. Prune any dead wood and criss- crossed branches. Thin out weak branches. Open up the center of the rose bush for good air circulation. Most roses can be cut back to three to five branches that are 18 to 24 inches long.

As the weather warms up keep an eye out for powdery mildew on the plant’s leaves and buds. There are commercial products available to get rid of this fungus. However, a good home remedy is 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 9 tablespoons of water. Spray on the affected parts of the plant. Another remedy is milk. It doesn’t matter whether the milk is skim or full fat. Again use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of milk to 9 tablespoons of water and spray on the plant.

While you’re at it, give patio and garden furniture a good scrubbing with a mild soap. Rinse and let dry in the sunshine. Repair any loose webbing. If the furniture looks worn and tired, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint. Spray paint works well on outdoor furniture. Select the kind that works on your type of furniture. For example, not all paint sticks to plastic, so if you have plastic chairs, use the appropriate paint.

With just a weekend’s worth of work your garden will be cleaned up for spring and ready to burst in to bloom.