Column: Ready—Set—Garden

by Valerie Loseth – The Wheelbarrow Gardener

Preparing your yard and garden now for the growing season ahead is not only smart but it also saves you time and money.

Doing a few projects now when there is time will prevent obstacles getting in your way when it’s time to get busy in the gardens. Here are a few things you can do now.

1) Get out the seed catalogues and gardening magazines.

Everything starts with an idea, and these are great resources for ideas on what you can incorporate into your yard or garden this year. Whether it’s a new type of perennial you want to try or maybe there is a part of the yard you want to design differently, now is the time to do the research. Make sure that when dreaming and ordering of new plants that you’re keeping in mind the zone that we live in, which is a 2b-3a. If you’re creating a new flower bed, take a photo of the area now, get out the hose or extension cord and draw the outline of the garden, then take another picture. You will get a better perspective of the size and relation of the new garden with the pictures than you will with the naked eye.

2) Clean and sharpen the tools. Gather all of your tools and give them all a once over. Using a stiff wire brush remove all the dried on soil and loose rust. Then in order to prevent transferring destructive pathogens from last year into this year’s gardens give all your tools, pots, and baskets a good washing with a bleach water wash. One cap full of bleach for four litres of warm water will do the trick. Make sure you dry everything well. Sand down any of the handles that are starting to look rough, and then give them a coat of outdoor Varathane. This procedure will help prevent slivers. Tighten any nuts or bolts on the tools and sharpen any blades. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself take them to a professional. Put new o-rings in the hose and check the nozzle that it works, no one likes a leaky hose. Oh, and make sure the wheelbarrow tire is full of air, nothing worse that finding a flat tire when you don’t have time to deal with it.

3) Rake the grass, this will help remove snow mold from the grass and remove some of the dead thatch. Top dress lightly with some compost and rake it in, this will help feed the lawn without the use of chemicals.

Edge the grass along garden edges now while they are still moist and not actively growing with plants.

4) If you’ve covered your garden beds with leaves, get a rake in there and stir things up. You don’t have to remove all the leaves, if you leave some there they will break down and feed the soil. But make sure that you stir them up to incorporate some air into the soil to help with decomposition and to help warm and dry things up. Be careful as you remove the leaves and debris from around the perennials, you’ll no doubt unearth a ladybug den if they haven’t already emerged.

5) Give a gentle wake up to your perennials. Remove winter mulches exposing emerging rosettes that are crowning now or trim back any perennials to about 4-5 inches above ground level and put the cuttings into your compost. Add a dressing of compost around the plants but not directly on them, as you don’t want to burn the delicate new growth.

6) Prune any obvious, broken, dead or diseased branches from trees or shrubs. If you’re pruning a tree that you know is diseased make sure to clean your tools between each of the different cuts that you make with a bleach water solution.

If you’re pruning for shape, prune shrubs that bloom in the spring or early summer after they bloom. For those shrubs that bloom in the late summer or fall, most should be pruned in the spring.

7) Clean out the shed, dispose of any broken pots, tools, garden accessories or gloves that don’t have companions. Organize all the tools and supplies and donate what you don’t use.

Take out the lawn furniture and give it a good wash with the hose and a stiff brush, now sit back, and relax and dream of the warm summer days to come.

The Wheelbarrow Gardener can be found online at:

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