Now is the time to cut back the dead of your plants as they start to produce new crowns. Pruning will allow new blooms and help to promote strength and health. It is important when you are cutting back the winter vegetation, which was basically burnt by the freezing temperatures.
•Put the dead foliage into the compost pile because it will decompose and become excellent compost. Of course if you are pulling weeds you can add the green vegetation.
•Also keep in mind that burnt straw like material is best to do in layers since your compost pile is adding your green winter and annual weeds on top of the dry material, with root, plant and all. The weed root system is heavy with microbial life which will energize the composition of the brown material below.
•You can choose from many different types of tools to cut the dead material back.
I find that you can do the majority by hand because it is so brittle, but hedge trimmers, hand pruners or small majecty (knife) is a much more efficient way of getting the job done.