Garden Ready For Spring!
It's finally spring and you may be wondering what to do
with the bleak, brown space called a yard. Beautifying
your yard can not only be satisfying, but well-placed
shrubs, trees, flowering plants and an attractive lawn can
increase your property's value.
Avid gardeners may already have been out with their hoes,
planting seeds that can handle a nip of frost. Fresh
greens such as lettuce, chard and spinach are plants worth
taking a gamble on. But now that the long weekend has
passed, you can go ahead with your planting without much
risk to your garden.
To start, though, you have several things you need to get
out of the way.
Begin by taking a reality check. Did you clean up, cut
down, rake leaves, compost and generally tidy things up
before the first snow? If not, you'll have to do it now.
Even if you didn't spend hours this past winter planning
your garden on paper and ordering plants and seeds,
there's still time to do all the research needed to make
it a success. Go to your local library or book store and
pick up some books and magazines to help you visualize
what you want.
Think of your yard as a cluster of "outdoor rooms": some
for enjoying sunshine, others for growing vegetables and
others for appreciating the beauty of flowers, shrubs,
trees and foliage plants.
Flower and vegetable beds need a lot of thought and
planning, especially if you want continual colour or
growth from spring through fall. You may have to plant
more than one kind of annual or vegetable in a particular
location to accomplish this.
You'll also have to consider other factors such as sun,
shade, heat, reflected light, winds and soil conditions.
Garden centres and nurseries get mobbed in spring, so be
prepared before you get there. Start a shopping list of
the seeds, bedding plants and shrubs you are going to need
to get your yard in gear.
When to start
Because spring weather is so variable, it's often
difficult to know when the soil is ready to receive seeds
and transplants. A good rule of thumb is to check other
outdoor plants for clues. When spring bulbs and crocuses
come into bloom, the soil is usually warm enough to start
digging. The ground should also be thawed enough to divide
and more perennial flowers and herbs, plant shrubs and
trees and to start rejuvenating your lawn. It's also a
good time to prune back bushes and trees and begin insect
management strategies. However, much still depends on the
weather and how dry the soil is.
Understanding and improving your soil
Flowering plants and vegetable gardens required good soil
drainage. How well your garden soil drains depends on its
composition. Clay soils tend to drain slowly while sandy
ones drain rapidly. Both can be improved with the addition
of large quantities of organic matter such as peat moss,
compost and leaf mould.
In addition to its physical makeup, soil can also be
classified as acid, alkaline or neutral. This is also
referred to as its pH content. High acidity or high
alkalinity can be harmful to plants. Materials such as
lime can be added to decrease soil acidity. Soil or peat
moss is added to decrease soil alkalinity.
To test the pH of your soil, you can purchase a
do-it-yourself kit or send a sample to a laboratory that
will test the soil for you. Even if your soil turns out to
be infertile, stony or poorly drained, you can still grow
flowers and vegetables. Just build framed, raised beds and
fill them with enriched soil.
Digging an established garden is fairly easy as long as
the soil is the right consistency. To determine if your
soil is dry enough to work, squeeze a handful into a ball
and drop it from shoulder height. If it shatters, the soil
is dry enough. If the soil is too dry to form a ball,
moisten it before digging.
As a general rule, garden soil should consist of about
one-third organic matter. Apply three to six inches of
peat moss or other organic material over the existing
soil. Then till or spade all materials thoroughly to a
depth of eight to 12 inches. You can single dig or double
dig. Double digging is more work - you dig a trench in the
soil to the depth of your spade, then dig down further
with a garden fork to loosen the soil below. Plants with
deep root systems respond better to double dug soil.
Prepare the soil a couple of weeks before you plan to
start planting. Leave the prepared soil beds idle for
about 10 days to allow any weeds time to germinate. Remove
weeds before sowing or transplanting the area.
Time to plant
If you are planting seeds directly outdoors, make sure you
don't place them too deep in the soil. Many seeds need
exposure to light to germinate. If the plants don't
tolerate frost well at the seedling state, ensure that all
danger of frost has passed.
Plants grown indoors may go into shock if not hardened
property before being transported to the garden. This
process takes about 10 days. Start by putting the plants
outdoors for an hour or two during the hottest part of the
day and gradually increase their exposure. Water
transplants before you plant them and once or twice every
Bedding plants can be purchased at garden centres or
nurseries should already be hardened. Always look for
stocky, compact plants that have a healthy green colour.
Avoid tall, lanky specimens that have yellow leaves and
appear to be stretched. These are already in stress. Never
judge a plant by its height. Quality transplants are short
with thick stems and have side branches close to the base.
Taking care to get the right plants and planting them
properly will give you a garden space you can enjoy well
into the fall. So happy gardening!