For both casual and avid gardeners, the receding snow and end of winter signals the arrival of warmer days and a new season of planting, pruning and caring for our yards.
If you’re ready to get out and get your outdoor space in shape for a great spring and summer, we’ve got a few helpful tips and tricks that will get you started and help make your garden really come alive this year.
It’s no surprise that the snow and freezing temperatures that are a hallmark of Alberta’s winter can be hard on the trees, plants and soil in your yard. So as the mercury goes up, get out and have a look around for anything that the snow and ice may have kept out of view since the fall.
Collect pinecones, dead leaves and branches that have accumulated in your yard; if you’ve got a dog, you know they’ve probably left a few deposits out there as well. Have a look for discoloured patches that may be affected by snow mold, and rake them gently to aerate the grass and dry out the fungus.
Sweep debris from your decks and clean them with commercial washing solutions or warm, soapy water and a soft brush; or for deeper cleaning jobs, use a pressure washer. Stone patio surfaces can be given a more vigorous cleaning, since they’re generally more durable than wood decks.
Take note of fences that need some care and attention; often frozen soil can cause them to heave and become crooked. Straightening them out is much easier when the soil is still wet and soft.
Awaken your lawn
If your lawn was covered in snow for most of the winter, it’s been a while since it had access to oxygen or sunlight. Get out the rake and go to town aerating the soil and picking up thatch, the thin layer of dead grass between the living grass and their roots below.
While experts suggest you get better results reseeding in the autumn, you can still give your lawn a head start by spreading seed over bare patches; to prevent birds and wind from carrying seeds away, place a small amount of straw over the patches.
Spreading fertilizer on your lawn will get it growing; consider using a slow-release formula to provide nutrients over an extended time. Now is also the right time to tackle crabgrass; there are herbicides that can get into your turf and help prevent crabgrass from ever taking root.
Time for a little trim
While it’s advisable to prune some trees and bushes in the autumn, many species do best when you trim them after winter has passed. Prune the tops of trees and shrubs to force them to concentrate nutrients in their roots and lower branches, but don’t trim more than 1/3 of the bush, or you could endanger its health.
Pruning the lower branches of evergreen trees promotes upward growth and helps maintain their pleasing shape. Only trim the tops of large trees if you have proper safety equipment; otherwise, hire a professional to help clear the topmost branches.
Make your bed
Next up, have a look at your flowerbeds and gardens. If you’re the type of gardener who clears your plants out completely in the fall, apply a fresh layer of mulch to help keep moisture in the soil, prepared for when you’re ready to plant. If you left perennials or plants in over the winter, clear them out and dispose of the trimmings in the recycling bin or compost box before adding mulch. Adding peat moss and compost will boost the organic matter in soil for planting, while added bone and blood meal are nitrogen-rich fertilizers, both of which will help maintain healthy soil and plants through the growing season.
It may be a good time to test your soil as well, checking that the pH balance and nutrients present are ready for planting.
Finally, get all your gardening and yard maintenance tools ready to go. Start with giving your lawnmower a good cleaning, wiping off dirty surfaces and adding some lubricant to hinges, wheels and axles. Sharpen the blades and clean the catch bag of any old, dry grass clippings. If it’s gas powered, give it an oil change, and safely dispose of any old fuel remaining in the tank.
Clean your garden tools and outdoor furniture as well. Sharpen spades and digging tools, and clean off any rust or dirt left over from last year. Well-kept tools can provide years of gardening pleasure and make tough jobs easier.
Finally, check that your hoses and sprinklers are cleaned up and ready to go. Now you’re ready for planting season!