Preparing Your Garden For Spring

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Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 5.59.47 PMBy Wendy Aycoth

At last Spring is upon us, and the Garden Centres are already filling their shelves with perennials and evergreen shrubs. It is really tempting to buy everything in sight, but hold on. The weather is still cold and can be for the rest of April. However field grown evergreens may be planted now, including azaleas that will bloom this year. Place compost or peat moss in the hole and fill with water, this will saturate the surrounding soil so that the shrubs will have adequate moisture once they are planted. Allow these new shrubs to establish roots before fertilizing. They will benefit just as much with a later fertilization. Well established evergreens can be fertilized now. Remember also to water all newly planted shrubs and trees for at least a week after planting if there is no rainfall.

When you buy new trees or shrubs, remove any burlap and twine, and loosen the roots before planting. Roots that encircle the trunk, if not pulled out will continue to encircle the tree and eventually will strangle it. These are called girdling roots. If it is impossible to pull them out, cut them up and down in a straight line. Plant at original ground level, no deeper. If mulching afterwards, make a volcano hole around the trunk to catch rain. Piling mulch up against the bark of a tree or shrub will eventually rot the bark, resulting in death.

As soon as your spring blooming shrubs have finished their bloom, it is time to prune the oldest wood to ground level, reducing the shrub by one third its size. In three years, pruning in this manner will totally rejuvenate your shrub. Bulb foliage can be unsightly, but don’t be tempted to cut if off. The dying leaves provide food for the bulb to produce flowers next year. Planting taller perennials will cover up the bulb foliage. You can gather and fold up the foliage and put a rubber band over it to make it look tidier.

If you grow vegetables, move your broccoli , cabbage and other cool-weather plants to the cold frame. Plant your lettuce seed and onion sets, and if the soil is dry enough to work up, seeds for radish, carrots, beets and turnips can be planted now.
Remember it is still April, and we could get a light frost. Use floating row cover, a light white airy fabric that allows light and water through, yet protects your tender plants. You can also use plastic, but remember to remove before the sun gets too warm the next day, burlap or even newspaper will also work. Individual plants can be covered by an upended flowerpot or milk jug with the bottom cut off.

Indoors, check often for insects on your houseplants. They will multiply quickly with the longer warmer days. Use insecticidal soap or Neem oil, these are organic sprays, that are safe for use in the home. Water more often and start a feeding program as the houseplants will grow faster. Start herb seeds now in a sunny window. Flower seeds to start this month are the large marigolds, gaillardia and cosmos. Take cuttings off begonias, coleus, ivies and succulents. Start African Violets from a single leaf. Cover a small container with foil. Make a small hole in centre and put stem of leaf in hole. The container should be full to the top with water. A new plant will form at the base of the leaf.

Cut yourself a daffodil or tulip and lift your spirits in the kitchen, if we have an especially warm day, take a good book and sit in the garden for a while.