How to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring in Westchester

Sean Jancski, principal of Sean Jancski Landscape Architects in Rye, shares his tips for whipping your flower and garden beds into shape.

Celebrate the arrival of spring in Westchester with getting your garden in tip-top shape. With the warmer seasons right around the corner, Sean Jancski, of Sean Jancski Landscape Architects, tells us what you’ll need to know to get your home garden prepped for when the sun is shining.

What should you do first to get your flower and garden beds ready for spring?

Debris removal and weeding are the top priorities, says Jancski. “Cleaning up the beds and removing the debris that rain, wind, and winter conditions may have left in your garden” is key, he explains. “Removing weeds will allow for the healthy growth of the plants, minimizing the possibility of an invasive weed taking over your garden.”

“The second step is pruning and removing dead branches, to allow for new growth and healthier plants,” adds Jancski.

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“The third thing you should do is de-compact the soil and add mulch,” he says, noting that compacted soils will restrict root growth. “Once the earth is thawed out and the soil is not too wet and soggy, moving around the top layer of soil will loosen any compacted areas in your garden. After turning the soils, adding mulch will allow the soil to retain moisture and suppress the weeds while making it look more attractive.”

What are some of the gardening mistakes people make in the spring?

Being impatient is the worst thing you can do in spring, Jancski says. “Impatience can lead to over-planting, over-watering, and/or unnecessary removals,” he explains. “Some plants, such as ornamental grasses, do not fill in until late summer/fall, and the garden may seem bare early on in the spring.” It’s best, Jancski says, to see how your garden is faring in the late spring before you assess whether you need to plant more in order to cover those bare areas. “It is also important to know what plants the garden has already and when the plants will be in bloom,” he adds.

 

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You mentioned mulch. Should it be added every year, and what kind do you recommend?

“Mulch is beneficial in a garden and can be added multiple times throughout the gardening season, depending on the conditions of the site and whether the mulch remains in place,” says Jancski. After the winter, Jancski recommends adding about 1–2 inches of mulch — too much depth can cause rot, and too little depth will not suppress the weeds. “We have been using Sweet Peet mulch in our projects lately. It’s organic and also aesthetically pleasing.”

What should you prune and when?

“The best time to prune is during the late winter/early spring, although it varies for different plant species and their flowering habits,” says Jancski. “For instance, flowering shrubs such as roses may be pruned after first bloom to avoid pruning any new blooms. It is also best to hold off on pruning roses until mid-April or after the chance of a late freeze. Summer-blooming plants should be pruned in the late winter before spring growth.”

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What can you start planting right away?

Plants that are early bloomers should be planted in early spring to take full advantage of the bloom time, according to Jancski. (Some of his picks include Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, Star Magnolia, Flowering Quince, Spiraea, Creeping Phlox, Bergenia, and Heartleaf Brunnera.) “It is important to think about the overall design of the garden and how the garden will look throughout the garden season,” Jancski says, adding that as soon as the ground has thawed and is no longer saturated or soggy, it is fine to plant trees, shrubs, or perennials.

 

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