The 6 Things on Your Gardening To-Do List this Spring
The 6 Things on Your Gardening To-Do List this Spring
By Mark and Ben Cullen
It is spring and time to get serious about the yard and garden.
With COVID 19 foremost on most people’s mind, this list will provide a useful and productive diversion. These activities will get you out of the house, moving your body and enjoying fresh air.
While it is difficult to know where to start where garden chores are concerned this time of year, we are about to provide clarity and eliminate that excuse for ignoring the topic.
Here is precisely where you should start.
#1 Hose the place down. We are not in favour of the indiscriminate use of tap water. Hosing down the driveway is not on this list, not when a stiff broom does the job very nicely.
We do suggest that you should dilute the invisible salt spray on the plants out by your boulevard by giving them a soaking with a stiff stream of water delivered from the end of the hose. Also soak down the plants along the walk leading up to the house and anything else that may have been exposed to the damaging effects of salt.
#2 Your lawn requires attention as soon as you can walk on it without making a permanent impression with the heal of your boot. Wear flat soled shoes and using a broad leaf rake (not a hard garden rake) remove the winter debris that sits loosely on the lawn and get the grass blades to stand up on end. This will open the crowns of the grass plants and increase the circulation of fresh air. The result will be less snow mould and powdery mildew, and a faster, more vigorous green up. Watch our video.
#3 Fertilize your lawn with a quality product that contains slow release nitrogen. Mark uses CIL Iron Plus on his three acres of grass. It is true that cheap lawn food is available. There is cheap ice cream too, that does not contain milk or cream. You will get what you pay for and where lawn fertilizer is concerned, a ‘quality product’ will provide benefits for up to 10 weeks vs. 3 or 4 weeks with many bargain brands.
An early application of quality lawn fertilizer helps to reduce your work later by thickening it. A thick lawn shades out lawn weeds before they germinate and put down an aggressive root. The answer to the question, “how do I kill lawn weeds?” is best answered with “You don’t. You prevent them by growing strong, healthy grass.”
#4 Overseed your lawn. Thicken your lawn with a 3 cm layer of triple mix or Mark’s Choice Lawn soil (Home Hardware) and spread quality grass seed over the triple mix at the rate of one kg per 100 sq. meters. CIL Iron plus grass seed provides amazing results.
Overseeding your lawn is an important part of your weed control toolbox. Thickening your lawn today is the equivalent of pulling the weed bar over your lawn a generation ago. Both exercises are done to eliminate weeds. The weed bar killed them; the new grass seed will squeeze them out before they germinate.
You can overseed and fertilize your lawn on the same day, providing that the fertilizer contains slow release nitrogen. The cheaper fertilizers are more likely to “burn” or dry out the grass seed, rendering it unviable.
It is worth noting here that you should cut your lawn 7 to 8 cm high as this too will squeeze weeds out of existence. Your taller, healthier lawn will shade out young weed seedlings and your lawn will be more drought-tolerant come summer.
#5 Spring flowering bulbs. Snowdrops and crocus might be in bloom, early in the season the ones that grow on the south and west side of the house may be finished. The narcissus and daffodils are close behind. This always begs the question this time of year, “What do I do with them when/if it gets cold?” and the answer is nothing. These bulbs are very winter hardy and have their own built in anti-freeze. When the narcissus bloom be sure to cut some of them and enjoy them indoors.
It is possible to ‘cheat’ and buy your bulbs in bud or bloom in pots at your retailer (assuming they are open for business) rather than planting them in autumn like the rest of us. Just slip the flowering plants out of the pot and plant in good soil. Mother Nature will take care of the rest of it – water and sunlight are all that is required to put on quite a show.
#6 Plant perennials and shrubs. We generally have this notion that we can only plant when it is nice and warm. Many people, if not most, wait until the air temperature is so warm that they are out there in shorts and shirt sleeves toiling away with a shovel and bags of soil while sweat runs down their face.
This is not necessary. Not when you can plant trees, flowering shrubs, roses and even perennials that have not been forced in the greenhouse (they are too soft for the cold nighttime temperatures). These are winter hardy plants that tolerate the cold quite nicely. Think about that – planting a lilac when temperatures may drop as low as minus 10 degrees can hardly hurt a plant that is wired to thrive north of Edmonton in zone 2 in minus 40.
Early spring is the perfect time for hauling in fresh soil to top up your garden for the season. We add 2 to 3 cm of triple mix to our entire garden each spring to rejuvenate the soil, which in turn ‘feeds the plants’. The result is a better-looking garden and happier plants.
The other reason that you will want to visit your favourite retailer this time of year is selection. Once again, assuming your garden retailers are open for business, the best selection of the aforementioned ‘hardy’ plants is this time of year. Also consider calling your local garden center about delivery. Many in the retail garden center business are struggling with a lack of business this spring, calling them to find out what services they are still offering is one way to support them and you might even get the ‘pick of the crop’ of so many wonderful plants, many in bud or near bloom, so you can enjoy the colour that they provide now.