Nobody is going to come over and help with spring cleaning, so you may as well go it alone. But with so much to do, where should you start?

I began in an area next to the garage where I planted some hellebore a couple of years ago. Their leaves need cut back now, dead and dried ones from last year, and even ones still green, were removed from above the many flower buds that are now opening. The green and brown leaf refuse was added to the compost pile and the pile will only get bigger as spring cleaning the gardens continues with each day of warm sunny weather.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to get in a little exercise before you start spring cleaning the garden. If you've been inactive through the winter months (I'm most guilty of that) your body will appreciate the stretching and strengthening. After you're prepared physically, get mentally prepared by taking a look at what needs immediate attention and begin your cleaning there.

Most of the flower buds on my hellebore were covered with dead and/or dying leaves. I wanted to start my cleaning there first because these flowers open sooner than our daffodils and other early spring bloomers. Removing the leaf litter will allow the flowers to be clearly seen.

I'll enjoy glancing over at the hellebore as I tackle the chore of cutting back stems and dead leaves from our peonies. The tips are now showing themselves as they spear their way upward and outward, seeking the warm summer sun from underneath decaying stems and leaves.

When deciding on where to start, take into consideration the early season flowering plants and shrubs. You'll want to remove dead plant debris from these first because they're actively growing and need the added space.

Looking out the kitchen window I see the backyard garden, where the need for cleaning is particularly evident; it's the vegetable garden plot. But that's OK - it'll only look messy for a little while, I'll let a few more sunny days dry things up a bit before I go tramping around there. Most of our spring flowers are located in beds adjacent to the house and front sidewalk. My wife Maureen spent a day along the front walkway a week or so ago when we had a nice stretch of sunny weather. Daffodils and tulips have sprouted, and the first signs of daylily growth are showing us that spring is certainly upon us.

Don't let what appears to be a daunting task prevent you from enjoying the beginning of the new gardening season. Take things in small doses, clean one flower bed at a time, don't think about the other 10 that need attention as you work on the one. Keep an eye on the weather and plan to do your spring cleaning in the warmth of natural sunshine, which isn't to say you mustn't work on cloudy days, but it seems I'm much more productive when the sun is shining bright and the sky is clear and blue.

T.C. Conner is a Master Gardener and columnist for Allied News. He can be reached at tc@thewritegardener.com. Check out his blog at www.the writegardener.wordpress.com.

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