Gardening in Minnesota

Happy Spring!  Gardening in Minnesota presents us with challenges that those in warmer gardening zones don’t have to fret over.

In Minnesota, were in zone 4 for planting

In Minnesota, we're in zone 4 for planting, which means we should use plants that can survive winters with low temperatures that can go down to -20 or even -30 F.

We are in zone 4, and have been blessed with a nice gradual Spring, as opposed to, say, snow on Easter. Two days ago I had one crocus in one garden bed.  Today they are popping up all over the place.   I have been out in my yard taking photos of things that are just beginning to sprout so you can recognise them in your own perennial gardens and not “weed ” them out by mistake  during Spring cleanup. They will begin being posted tomorrow with a view from a distance of a couple of  feet and then a close-up of the plant leaf or bud.  It is such a joy to walk around the yard and see something coming up that wasn’t there yesterday.

If you are looking for your perennials and aren’t sure what they look like, resist the urge to weed the area until the plants are bigger.  Nothing is really crowded at the moment anyway.  Just pull or dig out what you are absolutely sure of.  For instance, most people can tell a dandelion, even before it flowers.  (You can always tell a dandelion, but you can’t tell it much!)  Getting those out now is so much easier than waiting ’til later.  At this point, it’s time to uncover the flower beds and let things dry out  if they are covered in leaves.

I confess that I don’t do much clean-up in the Fall.  I’m inclined to just let the plants die as Nature intends.  The dead leaves of the plant will serve as a protective mulch through the harsh winter, and it’s very easy to pull off  the dead material in the spring.  I also cheat on leaf raking in the Fall by blowing tree leaves onto my flower beds and leaving them as mulch too.  I am so antsy to get into the garden in the Spring that I actually enjoy Spring raking in the warming sunshine.  Since I am a professional gardener, I’m always busy cleaning up other people’s gardens and yards before my own in Autumn.  By the time I am done taking care of my clients, it’s pretty durned cold outside and I’m ready to run for the sofa, a comforter, and a good book.  The first year I put my garden to bed by “neglecting” it, Old Man Winter came pretty early and I just gave up, sighed, and decided that if things come back in Spring, fine.  Otherwise, I’d have room for something new next Spring.  After all, weren’t those plants supposed to be hardy in zone 4?  As it turned out, my perennials did come back, and with gusto!

A lot of my clients live in meticulously kept neighborhoods and want their flower beds pretty much bare before the snow flies.  My point is that it’s great if you can get it done, but don’t fret about the plants if you don’t cut them down and clean them out.  Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.  And if you get any snide comments from anyone about an unkempt flower bed in Winter, you have my permission to tell them that The Garden Lady in Minnesota says it’s a more natural way to protect your landscaping investment.

Back to Spring here in Minnesota, It’s pretty dry.  There have been grass fires in the news.  If you don’t water your flower beds yet, it’s OK.  The plants will just take a little longer to break dormancy.  I only water a flower bed in the Spring once I have it cleaned out.  That way, what is growing  is showing and looking good.  Watering all your flower beds before they are cleaned out just encourages early growth that can get smooshed by the leaves that have been there all winter and get matted down by being wet.

If you have gardening questions just let me know.  I’ll do my best to address them.

See you tomorrow,

Kathy/ The Garden Lady  since 1998
Minnesota Rain Gardens
1223 Dayton Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104


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