The Fuzzy Wuzzy Garden, or I Admit I Was Wrong About Spring Clean-Up

When I was in first grade, classmates who showed up after receiving a severe haircut were welcomed with this chant:

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,

Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?

How sweet, you say, but what does this have to do with the garden?

Well, you may recall that I wrote in an earlier post about how I intended to cut all the left over stems, etc., into short lengths and let them stay in the beds where they fall, and that would be my spring clean-up. Brave words, these were. Brave, but also dumb. Well, mostly dumb.

By the end of March I had gone through the front garden beds, cleaning up according to the above plan. It looked like this.

Garden Spring clean up

The garden did not have the non-fuzzy Fuzzy Wuzzy look. It had more the look I had after the one and only haircut I got from a neighborhood barber called Ben. We had just moved into a new house, and I discovered there was a barbershop just three blocks away.  How great, I thought, and I strolled over to get a haircut.

Ben was in his early 80s, which is not to say there aren’t many, many supremely competent barbers in their 80s. It’s just that I later discovered that Ben spent the day in his barbershop not cutting hair, but watching tv and avoiding his wife. In any case, Ben gave me a haircut which my kids called “the tufted look”, featuring tufts of hair of varying lengths sticking out at various angles all over my head.

But giving my garden the tufted look wasn’t the problem. The problem was that in beds with lots of tall plants and dense growth, the quantity of plant debris was such that it was smothering the bulbs as they were trying to come up. The poor little grassy leaves of the grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) were having an especially difficult time.

species tulips
Emerging species tulips, revealed.

So I ended up giving the front beds another haircut, and now they look like Fuzzy Wuzzy, who wasn’t fuzzy.

Garden spring clean up

They still have a modest amount of plant debris. And in the back and side beds, where the growth was not so tall or dense, I was able to stick with my original plan.

So where did all the stems and other plant debris go? Well, into two piles next to my compost bins in the alley. They looked like this after I stomped on them to make them more compact.

garden spring clean up

Maybe they will be eaten by the big pink blob crawling down from the upper left corner. Oh wait, that’s my finger. Will you be surprised if I tell you this isn’t one of Judy’s pictures?

Do you prefer the Fuzzy Wuzzy look, the tufted look, or something else in the garden?

44 Comments on “The Fuzzy Wuzzy Garden, or I Admit I Was Wrong About Spring Clean-Up

  1. Your story about Ben the barber was great!!! I enjoy your wit in your writing!!! Ha…kinda funny he wanted to watch tv and avoid his wife! As for your beds…I think you did good! A fresh start and now on to a great season!!

  2. In the front yard, you probably did right to clean it up a little further – and by piling the debris up in the back yard, you’ve left any critters that overwintered to emerge when it’s time. This summer’s stems will provide next winter’s overwintering sites.

    I’m still chipping away at my cleanup – most of the beds are cleaned out now…and we’ve had a return of winter for the next 2 nights. Ice and snow will be here any minute (literally) and the wind is howling. I almost wish I’d left the plant debris in place!

  3. Haha…I think we all had THAT haircut at some point in our lives. I usually cut everything back in spring and compost almost all of it…but I don’t get too anal about it…there’s always a bit of debris hanging around…I figure it’ll disappear as soon as things get bigger…and it ads back some nutrients to the soil 🙂

    • When I noticed my finger in the picture, I figured I could either toss it or make a joke out of it. I hate throwing things away.

  4. Omg I am LAUGHING so hard about your kids saying barber ben gave you the tufted look!!! Priceless!! Seriously I could barely read the rest of the post thru my tears from giggling over the tufted look!!!
    Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!
    Ps. Poor little muscari!!!!

  5. I go for the semi-fuzzy look so that my little plants get some warmth and sun as early as possible…but the larger debris goes on the compost heap, which is fortunately plenty large enough! I’d say your garden looks pretty tidy actually!

  6. I always like to start with bare soil if I can when I do spring cleanup-more for peace of mind in the knowledge that I’ve done all I can to stop diseases from spreading. But, I also have plenty of places to get rid of the debris.

    • Yes, I was talking to someone else the other day and that was her big issue about spring clean up. It’s why I get rid of all the plant litter in the vegetable garden, but I am looser in the ornamental beds.

  7. I think I prefer the fuzzy-wuzzy look though I have to tell you that our front yard is now very much having a tuffed-look :-).

  8. If you garden, the reality probably is that you have to do some level of clean up. In my case, I have so many leaves I don’t have a choice. I like your neater look.

  9. I’m in the middle — I let a lot of smaller twigs and debris fall to the ground around the plants but the big dense stuff, like leftover nepeta stems, get hauled away. It’s just as labor intensive as fully clearing the entire garden, but I kind of like the look of a light tufting of stuff throughout.

  10. The weather is simply not co-operating, so my garden has neither the “tufted” nor the “fuzzy-wuzzy” look (love those descriptive terms!). Because my garden is not completely private (I live in an apartment complex and the beds I plant are viewed by everyone living here), I cannot leave anything lying around – all my cuttings and all the dead leaves, etc., must be completely cleaned up (when I can actually get out there and do the job). If I had my way, however, I would leave some of the smaller debris….

  11. Ah finally fixed my password, how frustrating that was.

    I have found a compromise by throwing the old bit’s and pieces under the fir tree garden, seems everyone is pleased by this except for my husband.

    Jen

  12. As my grandfather used to say… The difference between a good hair cut and a bad hair cut is two weeks! I’m sure your bulbs would have fought their way through but I would have probably been as cautionary as you!

  13. I am just like Scott. Spring is cleanup time here, after the snow leaves of course. All heads to the compost. Lots of work, but much gets use by over wintering insects and hungry birds.

  14. Uh, not sure how to answer your question. I prefer the green, growing, late spring or summer look. 😉 But short of that, either method works. It’s fascinating to watch the transformation.

  15. I find myself giving plants an extra close trim. often too close. especially when I’m behind in getting this chore done and then I end up cutting off fresh new green growth!

  16. Heeheee!! Such an amusing post! I quite like a bit of fuzzy wuzzy, the natural look right. Do what nature would do, although it wouldn’t chop itself into bits.. hmm? I leave everything and am faced with what to do when I’ve chopped it back too. It’s a tricky one dude! To be perfectly honest I am looking forward to seeing how that border will grow, i’m sure you’ve got something spectacular planned.

  17. Jason,
    I always clean up the remains of plants in the spring and put them in the compost. You can burn them but I think that the compost is always needed in the garden

  18. I like some mulch, and I alternate – can’t make up my mind – between tufts and fuzzy wuzzy. Impressive pink blobby finger, I have something similar in my garden too and sometimes it creeps into the edge of photos. Attention seeking, I call it. I’m doing a cleanup too, although it’s autumn not spring here. Thanks for enjoyable post.

  19. haha – I could actually imagine the tufted haircut! I like the freshly mulched look, but rarely have it in my garden. It’s almost like going to prom – very special, and a very rare look. But, that’s when I want to take pictures for display!

  20. Great story about Ben. Working in the garden can bring up all kinds of memories. And as for clean up – we learn – and learn again – in my own experience.

  21. I prefer the look of beds perfectly muclhed with well rotted manure and compost where the ground is a beautiful dark chocolate color that makes every single leaf of every carefully placed plant look like a masterpiece. I’ve never had beds like that in my own garden as my staff is incredibly lazy. I leave things in place for most of the winter & then chop up and throw down. When I can’t stand the look of plants trying to push up through what looks like a hayfield, I avert my eyes until the plants cover the entire thing. If I get antsy and have some extra time on my hands, I shovel some of our free local biosolid mix over the top of the worst of the piles of stems and stuff in an attempt to hide them. No one is allowed to see my garden until it looks really fabulous which is a 15 minute period on July30 starting at dusk.

  22. Hi Jason, at the end of the season, I’m too tired to deal with garden clean-up so leave it over the winter (also for the benefit of the wildlife). It’s only when I’m itching to get out in the garden towards the end of the winter and I know the early spring bulbs and plants will be pushing through that I go out and do a good garden clean. I’m not sure I could do the half-way chop, it still looks too messy for me and I think it would end up being blown all over the place in high winds, plus I’d only have to go out again and finish the job.

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