Spring is making an early arrival. There's work to be done.

It's time to start cutting back perennials. Cut the old, dead growth back to the ground. This exposes the new growth to sunlight. Perennials and ornamental grasses should be cut back soon but it's still too early to prune roses or shrubs. Clear away debris from emerging and blooming bulbs.

Chop or cut this garden debris into small pieces that can decompose quickly. I use this organic matter in the bottom of my patio containers. Fill them half or a third full--depending on their size--before adding potting soil on top. The debris will break down during the course of the summer. It's basically composting in place. This is a good way to stretch your soil budget.

After filling some pots, go ahead and plant pansies. I've been waiting all winter to do this.

Pansies are the toughest of the cool season annuals. They'll easily survive night temperatures in the 20's. If we get a severe late cold snap, just cover them with frost covers or sheets. Pansies must be planted in March and April. They prosper in cool spring weather and decline in the heat of summer.

If you forced pots of bulbs this winter in your garage or basement, they're probably ready to come outside. Use a pot of hyacinths, tulips or daffodils in the center of a larger pot. Just sink it in the soil so you can't see the pot. Plant pansies around it to make a pretty spring show.

When planting, remove the tags. If you want to keep track of what you plant, consider starting a garden notebook where you can staple the tags and record your observations.