What do I cut back and clean out in the spring?

Most perennials and ornamental grasses can be cut to the ground now. Trim Russian sage, butterfly bush, and blue mist shrub back to 6-8 inches leaving some woody stems for new shoots. Hedge shears are great for cutting established tall grasses. Tie together with string and shear low to the base before new growth starts. Leaves and stems may be raked out of beds, leaving some as nesting materials for birds. You can also put the cut back grasses right back into your garden bed. Just make sure to chop them up into smaller pieces with your lawnmower.

UPDATE for 2020: New research as shown that we should wait to clean up our gardens until we have at least 3 consecutive days of 50+ degree weather. There are many insects that overwinter in the leaf litter so they need some warm days to ‘wake up’. 

Is spring a good time to prune?

Late winter, when they are dormant, is the best time to prune many trees and shrubs. However, do not prune plants that have flower buds and bloom before Memorial Day until after they have flowered. Trim roses around April 1st, when new leaves begin to sprout. To keep a natural look on shrubs, use bypass pruners on individual branches. Always sharpen and clean garden tools for best results. You should also clean your blades between cuts to help deter the spread of diseases from one plant to another. Find details on pruning specific plants, such as hydrangeas, on our blog or TGP Plant Search or ask our staff.

How do I get the grass to grow evenly?

If there is snow removal or salt damage, dead patches or thin spots in your lawn, spring is a great time to overseed, slit seed, fix patches, apply pre-emergent weed killer and fertilize turf. Come in and speak with our Tree & Shrub staff about products for your specific needs.

When can I dig in and plant?

As long as the ground is not frozen and the soil isn’t too wet, you can plant. An easy way to tell if your soil is wet is to squeeze a handful. If it sticks together in a clump, it’s too wet. If it crumbles easily, the soil is ready. In order to not disturb utilities buried underground, Illinois state law requires you call JULIE (811) before any digging project.

When can I start my vegetables?

Cold tolerant vegetables like peas, lettuce, and cabbage can be planted as soon as the soil is workable. Seeds can be started now. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant need to wait until the soil temperature is around 60 degrees, about mid to late May, or their growth will be stunted. Read more on vegetable gardening on our blog.

Is it too early to put flowers in containers on my porch?

Cold hardy annuals are a welcomed sight in spring, brightening up porches and patios with splashes of color. Petunias, violas, calibrachoa, lobularia, and euphorbia are a few we have in store. Our designers recommend adding perennials into planters as well. Nepeta, salvia, sedum, heuchera and other perennials tolerant of cooler temps add texture, height and varied foliage for added interest. Not creative but want the look? We sell convenient, ready-made custom designed containers at both locations. Many local businesses and clients utilize our custom design services, where our staff travels to your location.

How do I keep the rabbits from nibbling on my plants?

Rabbits are hungry in spring and soon baby bunnies will be trying anything and everything. We carry effective liquid and granular repellents. Our experts suggest changing the product every two or three years as rabbits will get used to it and start to ignore it. A circle of chicken wire around your plants is the best deterrent and won’t wash away in the rain like the liquid and granular repellents.

How do I get rid of insects and disease on my plants?

First, know the problem before choosing a solution. We ask that you bring samples in a sealed bag with your name and phone number or bring in pictures as it is hard to diagnose over the phone. Our Tree & Shrub staff can assist in choosing an organic or synthetic product once the problem is detected. We recommend customers always read instructions on the product label for best use.

I’m replacing a tree. What do you recommend?

Assess your site: how much sun does the area receive? Is it wet or dry? There are oaks, maples, elms and more that make wonderful shade trees and grow fairly quickly. Check out our TGP Plant Search online for what will work best in your space. We have a select variety of bare root trees available this spring that are not only economical but proven to establish better than container and balled-and-burlapped trees. Call 630-355-4000 to preorder.

We also found some more helpful tips from Beth Botts in the Chicago Tribune.