Along the Garden Path: Spring garden chores


Gardeners know that the growing season doesn’t begin on a warm morning in May—there is much to be done while frost still lingers on the ground. In the lengthening days of early spring, while the sap is still flowing, we should be up and about at the potting shed, getting ready for the planting rush.

Making tools ready, mixing up custom fertilizers and organizing irrigation equipment are practical matters we can accomplish before the buds break. Instead of trying to catch up, an early start puts us in confident control of the gardening season.

Wash used pots and seed starting trays to kill fungi and bacteria. Scrub containers with a brush, and soak them for 10 minutes in a 10 percent bleach solution. You might want to wear rubber gloves and then change the solution if cleaning a large number of items.

When you are able to get out to the patio, clean it with a hose and a brush or stiff-bristle broom. For stained or algae-covered surfaces, use a mix of bleach and water.

You might want to think about the early-season crops such as radishes, spinach, and lettuce. You can purchase their seeds and refer to the seed packet for specific sowing directions.

We keep notes on our plantings; cost, growing conditions, what’s blooming, and when each was pruned – the weather, what varieties to think about for the next year and which ones to leave at the garden center.

When you are able to get outside, spread the compost in garden beds to promote pest and disease resistance. Spring rains will leach nutrients from the compost into the soil.

Prune deciduous and fruit trees. When trees are bare, it is easier to see their branch structure and get to the branch you’re cutting. However, maple and birch trees should be pruned after leaf drop in fall or early winter.

Clean and preserve wooden window boxes and other structures. Protect them with linseed oil, stain, sealant, or varnish.

Renew perennials that are overcrowded by dividing the plants when new shoots are 2-4 inches high.

Trim ornamental grasses close to the ground, when you start to see green in the plant, to make room for new growth. Compost the cuttings or use them for mulch around plants.

Fertilize spring bulbs – wait till the foliage emerges and use a formula specially suited to bulbs or a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer (the first number in the sequence), which encourages leaf growth, not flowering.

Stock up on needed supplies for the spring and summer. Visit the nurseries, garden centers and home improvement centers and pick up the landscaping material you will need for projects later in the year. It’s better to get everything you will need before the crowds come.

Spring is the season for renewal and rebirth in the garden.

Get your thoughts together – garden season is just around the corner!

By Charlene Thornhill

Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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