Spring is peeping its head around the corner and you know what that means… Time to start thinking of our Rain Garden To-Do’s!

Here are some quick tips to give you a head start on a beautiful, storm-soaking landscape feature that will yield big benefits for the upcoming rainy season!
Miscanthus grass after pruning

Trimming Perennial Grasses allows for new growth

Photo Credit: North Coast Gardening

Trim Perennial Grasses

We’ve allowed our native perennial grasses to persist throughout the winter to allow for food and coverage for our local birds and critters, and they have provided structure and interest in the past winter months. They have now completed their season and are ready for a new one!Cut perennial grasses such as Switchgrass, Little and Big Bluestem, Indian Grass and Muhly Grass down to about 8-12” from the ground. This will ensure that the emerging blades from the crown of the grass are still intact and allow for new growth to appear as early as March/April. Sedges can also be trimmed, with the same guideline of 8-10” from the base of the plant.

Tools Needed: Grass shears or hedge trimmers, depending on the size of your grass.

Bonus: The trimmings from the “hair-cut” can be used in dried flower arrangements, make great compost, or can be spread around the garden bed as additional mulch!
Divide Perennials

Dividing perennials will refresh your plants and encourage healthier growth.

Photo Credit:  www.blog.oregonlive.com

Divide Perennials

Late winter/early spring is a great time to divide perennials such as Iris, Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan and Bee Balm. It is not as shocking to the plant when you do this task during the dormancy period, which will be ending very soon! Some varieties only need to be divided every 2-3 years; here is a good link to learn more about dividing perennials.

Tools Needed: Shovel or Hand Trowel

Bonus: Fill in your garden with the extra plants or share with neighbors!
Apply Mulch

Mulch should be refreshed each year. Prairie Grove EAST students apply mulch at the Prairie Grove Senior Center Rain Garden.

Re-Apply Mulch

Remove winter mulch or, if well composted, work into the top layer of the soil. Work in some leftover leaves too. Mulch helps protect tree and plant roots, and the organic varieties such as pine bark and shredded hardwood provide valuable fertilizer as they break down over time. A good rule of thumb is to apply a 3-4” layer of mulch around the base of the plant or tree and replace once per year, or at least every other year.

Tools needed: Wheel Barrel or Bucket, Shovel or Mulch Rake

Bonus: Mulching now will cut down on summer-time weeding and watering!


Transplant Time

Didn’t really like the placement of a plant in the garden? Soil conditions in early spring are favorable to transplants because the soil is more consistently moist, which helps new rooting to expand from the transplant zone and reach out for more nutrients. To transplant, use a spade to find the edges of the main root mass, then dig down and under to loosen the root ball. Dig the new hole several inches wider all around, and add soil amendments such as compost or organic fertilizer. Once the transplant is set in place, filling in around the sides with lightly compacted soil will promote lateral root growth.

Tools Needed: Shovel, Garden Spade or Hand Trowel

Expecting the list to be longer? Our native plants are easy to maintain and by doing these simple tasks, your rain garden will be looking great and will be ready to capture the rain and provide bountiful benefits for the Illinois River Watershed!

For more Rain Garden Management Tips, visit IRWP.org!   




Eartheasy Solutions for Sustainable Living


Additional Resources:

Landscaping with Native Plants, A Gardener’s Guide for Missouri  

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Home and Garden

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Home and Garden


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