It's time to cut back your perennials

Cut the old growth as close to the ground as possible.

The garden is coming to life. It's time to get to work. The biggest task is to cut back your garden.

I leave all the perennials "up" in winter. This helps to protect the "crowns" of the plants. That's the center of the plants right at soil level. Now that they're ready to grow, it's time to let the sun shine in. Cut the old growth as close to the ground as possible.

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Don't forget to cut back ornamental grasses. If you leave the dead growth from last year, the whole clump will look terrible all season.

Cut the debris into smaller pieces. These pieces will break down faster and easier in the compost pile. Finely-chopped debris can also be added to the bottom of your big pots before you add potting soil for spring planting. This organic matter will break down and decompose during the summer--and it can really save you money on potting soil.

As you cut back, don't mess with roses yet. It's not time for that. Don't prune them or other shrubs. Pruning encourages new growth on woody plants. New growth is really vulnerable to cold, so we don't want them to sprout yet. So leave your roses, butterfly bushes and other flowering shrubs alone.

As you work, avoid trampling emerging bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Don't work in your borders if the soil is wet and muddy. You'll squeeze the air out of the soil and turn it into adobe.

Don't get too tidy. Leave the leaves! They're good for the soil. As they crumble, the leaves enrich the soil and add nutritious organic matter.