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If you live in a warmer area than I do, your flower garden may already be delighting you with springtime blooms.

But here in the Midwest, the first shoots of spring are just starting to poke out of their winter hiding grounds. Each morning when I open my dining room curtains, I'm greeted with the sight of my backyard garden seemingly asking me -- begging me! -- to get outside and do some spring cleaning. Here's what's on the agenda:

  • Raking out. I use a small 3-prong garden rake to pull out all the pine cones and other debris. It allows me to get to everything without disturbing any young growth.
  • Weeding. My garden has its fair share of weeds. Some are simple, like the wild carrot, which is fairly easy to pull and doesn't seem to come back. Some are a bit more difficult: my worst garden enemy is thistle.
    Thistle has a long taproot, and it's nearly impossible to dig the root out completely. The most effective solution I've found is to dig it out as far as possible and -- very carefully, so as not to kill wanted plants -- pour boiling water on the remainder of the root.
  • Trimming. I have an arborvitae hedge that needs to be trimmed a couple of times each year. The spring is easy, because there's no other large growth to get in the way.
  • Cutting down. I cut down most of my perennials in the fall, but I leave some up, because the wintering birds seem to like the flower heads.
  • Dividing plants. Each year my sisters and I have a swap meet of sorts. Our phones will be ringing off the hook with questions like, "Could you use some Bee Balm? How about some Candytuft?" To keep the plants from taking over I divide and rearrange as necessary.

It's a lot of work, but the rewards are great. Here are just a few of my "rewards" from last year's efforts.

The rewards of gardening(click thumbnails to view gallery)




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