Beware the Brown Recluse Spider
Watch out for the brown recluse spider when doing spring cleanup outside and indoors -- brown with light brown legs, approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. It looks harmless but its bite can be deadly. The head has a dark brown spot shaped like a violin and three pairs of eyes (rather than four pairs as other spiders); abdomen dark brown, yellow, or greenish yellow.
Avoid Buying Weedy Perennials
We've been digging deeply with shovels and spades to lift perennials, then remove onion grass with bulbs intact. These wild onions are clustered tightly within black-eyed Susans, iris, and vinca. After hours on our knees, we're sure these pesky plants hitched a ride with those perennials. Word to the wise: Look closely and do not accept plants with weeds. They're not the gift you want to keep on giving.
Save Money, Grow Your Own
With gas and food prices increasing daily, every dollar (pennies, what are they?) counts. Give yourself better health PLUS money in the pocket. At the least, sow lettuce, spinach, bok choy, and Swiss chard seeds in compost/soilless potting mix in a window box. Then enjoy the fresh, crispy, flavorful greens in four to five weeks. Clip off several leaves per plant; don't pull out plants. The remaining leaves will keep the plant alive for another harvest or three.
Remove Garlic Mustard
Discourage invasive garlic mustard. Second-year plants are eye-catching May bloomers -- clusters of white, four-petal flowers above coarsely toothed, heart-shaped leaves on 16- to 24-inch stems. Though pretty, they're spoilers -- European invaders that outcompete North American native woodland plants. Pull them now before they go to seed. Note the slender, white, S-shaped taproot. Dispose of them, not in the compost pile. For ID, go to: http://www.nps.gov/plants/ALIEN/fact/alpe1.htm.
Prune After Bloom
Your forsythia either bloomed like a sun-kissed, yellow fountain or it disappointed with a meager handful of flowers. Your azalea is in full color, maybe overgrown, maybe holding a few dead branches. Pruning shapes and rejuvenates. Prune now, before flower buds start to form for next year. Prune old, thick, excessively long branches from the forsythia's base to make way for new growth; shorten tips touching the soil. Cut back oddly angled or crossed azalea branches. Remove dead wood. Fertilize now for more flowers next spring.