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Get your garden in shape

Laura Langston
The Costco Connection
March/April 2013


Early efforts pay off when summer arrives

Well-groomed gardens have tremendous curb appeal. They welcome visitors and encourage us to get outside and enjoy our surroundings. But when spring hits, the garden-prep "to-do" list can seem overwhelming. If you take a step-by-step approach to ready-ing your garden, you'll be sitting on your deck with a book in one hand and a drink in the other in no time at all.

Step One: Assess your yard. Check your natural elements (garden beds, trees, shrubs) and man-made structures (fences, arbours, water features, compost bins). Note any damage or dead plants, wear and tear, and any areas that need attention. Inventory garden tools, hoses and sprinklers to see what needs to be cleaned or replaced.

Next: "big picture" spring clean. Remove winter debris such as downed branches, leaves and any trash or debris that has blown in. When the ground has thawed and the lawn is dry, lightly rake it with a leaf rake (not a metal-pronged rake), removing loose debris and looking for damage.

Get pruning. Deciduous trees and shrubs prefer to be pruned when they're dormant (late winter-early spring), and it's easier to see the branch structure then, too. Flowering trees and shrubs such as forsythia, weigela, bridal wreath spirea and lilac should be cut back after flowering, advises Ontario horticulturalist Daisy Moore, owner of Gardens by Daisy Moore. But if a branch, vine or shrub is damaged or blocking windows or entranceways, prune it now regardless of its type.

This is also the perfect time to check for dead or weak tree branches and to arrage to have them removed if you can't do it yourself. Thin out and shape ornamentals that bloom in summer or fall. Remove dead flower heads and stake any floppy plants.

Tackle those weeds. It's important to pull weeds from garden beds in early spring before they have a chance to flower and go to seed. Follow up by mulching with 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 inches) of leaf mulch, wel-rotted compost or mushroom compost, says Linda Petite, instructor and assistant gardener at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia. Keep the mulch flush with the soil and don't mound it ot the base of the plants, otherwise you'll encourage rot, she adds. Mulching discourages additional weeds, conserves moisture, enriches the soil and gives a neater, finished appearance to garden beds.

Once weeds are banished, spend some time edging those beds. Crisp edges prevent grass invasion and make garden beds look well groomed, no matter how jumbled the plants.

Finish with colour. Colourful annuals are an inexpensive way to add bursts of colour throughout the growing season. Grouping potted annuals near your entrance makes it easy to replace spring annuals such as primulas or pansies with summer bloomers such as marigolds and geraniums as the weather warms. Plant up a few additional pots to strategically place in garden beds as the season progresses and perennials die back.

Finally, give yourself a pat on the back and a break, and hire a lawn-care professional for just a couple of weeks in spring to do some initial mowing and basic fertilizing. It'll make your ongoing maintenance much easier, and that will leave you more time to enjoy your clean garden.

Posted on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 01:23PM by Registered CommenterElaine in | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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