Whenever I get a lot of people asking the same questions at the store, I know that I have the makings of a weekly column. After all, if a lot of people are asking the same questions, then a lot of other people also have the same questions.
People always want to know about pruning plants in the spring. You should always prune out any dead wood on your plants. Rosebushes can come through the winter with dead canes. Those canes can be pruned back now. You can also prune rosebushes now to cut back on the size of the plant. The same goes for butterfly bushes and rose of Sharon. These plants will actually benefit from a light to moderate pruning each spring.
On the other hand, this is not the time to prune back rhododendrons and azaleas. They should be pruned back after they are done flowering. Of course, if there is dead wood on these plants, it can be pruned back now. Forsythia and any of the other early spring flowering shrubs are also pruned back after they are done flowering.
Several people have asked if they need to remove all of the mulch that they put down last year before they put down new mulch this year. You wouldn’t think that you should remove all the gas from your car before you go to fill it up. Why remove all of that perfectly good mulch?
If you put down 3 inches of mulch last year, you probably need to add only about an inch of mulch this year. Over time, the mulch will decompose and add organic matter to the soil. A top dressing of mulch will make the shrubs and the flower beds look better, and you will save a lot of time and money by not removing the mulch each year.