Spring Garden Clean Up {TGP}

Oh man, what a weekend! Talk about spring fever – sun and 60 degrees is shorts weather in Oregon! Not that I was wearing shorts – but my daughter did. Me, I’m cold most of the time – what’s up with getting older and colder? But I did peel my layers down to my long-sleeved shirt only and I soaked up the wonderful sun, oh, yes I did.


It feels good to say that two garden tasks were accomplished during this second weekend of March:

  • the vegetable garden was awakened for the spring (mulching the asparagus, pruning fruit trees and bushes, cleaning up dead plants, and getting two beds mulched and ready for pea and spinach planting)
  • the flower bed we see from the dining room and kitchen was cleaned up and weeded

And what a difference in the photo above of the flower bed, huh? I’m a spring cleaner-upper (vs. a fall one…) for a number of reasons: In the fall I’m usually too busy with preserving the harvest to attempt any clean up, most plants survive winter better with the cover of the previous season, birds eat the seeds of the dried flowers, and roses and plants need spring pruning anyway. But my #1 reason is:

I’m lazy and basically not interested in the garden in November (everything still looks good through October for us in Oregon). Sheesh, it’s all about the holidays come November, isn’t it?


This flower bed is about 6 x 20 feet, planted with a few evergreen shrubs, roses, and perennials, and took about 1 1/2-hours to go from the before state to the after.

Here’s how to tackle a spring garden clean up like this:
  1. Start with the tallest, most overgrown plants first. In this case, the roses and clematis. I cut all of them down to about 2-3 feet. The roses are shrub varieties and we have such a problem with black spot here that I find it’s best just to cut the roses back hard. They flower later, but tend to be much healthier (at least in the beginning of the season…sigh). These clematis grow many feet every year, so I cut them back to keep them sized for the trellises. They are obviously the kind you prune in spring, but honestly I’ve never been able to keep the different types of clematis straight.
  2. Prune evergreens if needed. Pruning and shaping will be easiest now, before the perennials grow bigger and make reaching the evergreens more difficult.
  3. Moving from one side of the bed to the other, pull weeds and cut off any dead plant parts.
  4. Take the time to prune or cut back any existing perennials (see specific examples below).
  5. Edge the bed, if needed. If it’s a grass border, it will always be needed. At least if you live in the Pacific NW.
  6. Lay down newspaper and cover with a mulch of compost or bark.

If you do all these steps, you will not have much to do in a bed like this for the entire growing season. Trimming a few plants and pulling a weed or two is about it. Seriously.

However…if you get to step 5 and don’t have compost or time to lay the paper and mulch and wait for 1-2 more months, you will have to weed all over again. This I know from ample experience, double sigh.


The photo on the left shows what a Moonbeam Coreopsis looks like when left over the winter. All joking about laziness aside, I found that the only way I can get this to overwinter consistently for me is to leave the dead growth for winter cover. There actually was a time I’d do a more thorough fall clean up and I had to replant the coreopsis often. Now, however, it just gets bigger and bigger.

To clean up, cut all the dead, browned stems back – don’t just pull, as the coreopsis is shallow-rooted and you will pull up the plant. I do a combination – mostly cutting with a bit of pulling. The green leaves you see are seedlings of an early spring blooming geranium-type plant (I don’t think it’s a hardy geranium, but I can’t actually remember…) which I pulled. It’s really not too aggressive, and it blooms and leafs out earlier than many other plants, so I leave it – pulling the seedlings and sometimes replanting them in hard-to-grow areas.


This patch is the farthest corner of the flower bed and holds a yarrow plant (right corner), sweet william (center), and the mystery geranium-like plant (upper left). See how nice it looks for the beginning of March? That’s why I leave it and deal with the reseeding. After lots of cutting back and weeding of errant grasses it looks more like a flower bed again. I don’t clean up the yarrow completely – it’s a plant I often lose, so I like to see where the new growth is and will clean it up a bit more in May.

Oh, and what don’t you see? The newspaper and mulch. All our compost got used in the veggie garden – plus I ran out of time. So, yes, I’ll probably have to weed a bit again. Sigh…we gardeners just do what we can, don’t we?

Did you get any major garden tasks done?


By the way, wasn’t it great being able to visit other gardens last week? It’s nice to have the Tuesday Garden Party back!


  1. says

    I started cleaning up my beds too. I try to do a little bit each day the weather is good and so far we’ve had several nice days. I find that I have better success over wintering plants if I just leave them alone all winter. Especially my hydrangeas! So my spring clean up always consists of cutting things back.

  2. Sakura says

    Our weather has been nice over the last few days, I’m going to start cleaning up. The problem I have in Utah is you never know if another big storm is going to roll thru. I don’t remember my yard looking so bad last fall!

  3. says

    Thanks so much for hosting! Looks like you made great progress – wish I’d been able to get as much done. We’re back to 45 and cloudy here, but still, that’s not winter. It’s coming!!

  4. says

    I’ve been slowly cleaning mine up. My oldest son is supposed to help since I’m paying him. Anyhoo, I’ve been pruning the rose bushes next to our driveway to make that bed look nice. I try to fill a trash can with the rose prunings twice a week so they can go out with the trash.

  5. says

    I’ll need to do this Friday when Darren is off. I need a truckload of mulch, our mulch area is still really saturated. The beds look pretty good, but yes, they need the paper and much for sure. I have a couple of plants that I didn’t know if I should cut way down or not, but I think I’ll follow you list and see what happens. Thanks!!

  6. Rhonda says

    I spent my weekend the same way and ohhh I loved it!!! I was laughing out loud at your comment about the Clematis as I can’t keep them straight either and glad I’m not alone!
    I cut mine back this weekend also. Garden on!!

  7. Shannon says

    How easy is it to plant after you’ve spread the paper and mulch? I’m putting off weeding for a bit because I know it’ll get crazy again before we really get to get out there again (I live in Seattle.) However, we plan on doing a lot of planting this spring and wonder if the paper/cardboard would make it too hard for planting and is really more for maintenance. Thanks!

    • says

      If you know you’re going to be planting in an area, be sure to use newspaper because it will be easier to cut through than cardboard. I just spade right through everything, and then repaper and mulch when I’m done. The paper is already wet enough at that point – in fact cardboard will be, too, and I’ve cut through that if I’ve needed to. It’s just that newspaper is easier. :)

  8. says

    Wish I had a post ready to link this week, but I just don’t. Not too much happening in our gardens here in the foothills as we’re a week or two behind those of you in the lower elevations of the PNW. I did manage to get some lettuce seed started, though, and I did pull a few weeds from my flower bed… Hopefully, I’ll have a post to share next week. :) Thanks for hosting!


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