“Tools of many kinds and well chosen, are one of the joys of a garden.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey
This past weekend I was really putting my garden pruner to work. I have eight large perennial garden beds that I maintain on my acre-size lawn. I don’t typically cut down things that provide winter habitat for beneficial insects, food for the birds and provide some winter interest. However, there are a few plants that I try to remove every fall as they tend to be a little more prone to harbor disease or insect pests and I don’t want to provide a nice winter bed so they get a head start next year. I cut back my tall garden phlox and monarda—bee balm—because mine are prone to powdery mildew. I also cut the tall, bearded iris to help prevent the iris borer. By removing and destroying old iris leaves, it helps remove and kill any eggs, thus removing the risk of iris borers next year. Pruning my peonies back to about two inches helps prevent the fungal diseases such as botrytis blight. Cutting back and removing hosta leaves eliminates a potential home for slug eggs, protecting the hostas for next season. I also try to cut back things that won’t provide any winter interest such as tall stalks from my various lilies and the dying foliage from my hundreds of daylilies. It’s a lot to clean up in the spring and it helps me get a bit of a head start.
With that many perennial beds to maintain, having garden tools in good shape is essential. Throughout the season, my husband and I use several types of spades and shovels, trowels, weeders, pruners, and more. Once the garden season is done, it’s time to clean, sharpen and store them. Not only does it get them ready for next year’s season, it also helps prevent the spreading of disease from one plant to the other.