The first tease of getting back to gardening is our official return to spring
No matter the weather, the calendar says we’re on the doorstep of spring’s arrival.
Warmer temperatures are ahead — and so is gardening season. If you’re new to getting your knees dirty, or just need some reminders of how to succeed out there, here’s our pre-start primer:
1. Where is the sun? Where does it come up on your home and garden in the morning, and down at night? These are important questions to ask yourself before you plant. A hot, sunny garden calls for distinctly different plant selection than a cool, shady one.
2. Make your real garden smaller than the one in your mind. The image that you have of a great-looking garden likely doesn’t take into account the work of creating that garden in the first place — plus the time and effort of maintaining it. Until you experience a garden commitment for yourself, you have no way of measuring it. Small successes will provide encouragement to go bigger in future.
3. Creating a bed in an existing lawn area? Cut the lawn short and lay down 10 pages or more of newspaper (being careful not to use this column for that purpose).Pile 10 to 20 centimetres of triple mix (equal parts soil, compost and peat) over the newspaper, and five to 10 cm of cedar bark mulch over that. Water thoroughly, until the entire pile is wet.
Note: if your existing soil is clay-based, increase the amount of soil/mulch accordingly.
Do this as soon as you can. The longer your bed settles, the better your new garden will perform.
4. Plant your new garden as soon as you can. Acquire winter hardy plants like trees, shrubs, perennials and even perennial food plants like asparagus and raspberries. Frost-sensitive plants like tomatoes and petunias should wait to go in the ground until after the threat of frost passes, usually around May 24.
5. Shop for plants early. We anticipate another record year at garden retailers, and we know that there will be shortages of many plants that will be in high demand. Shop early to avoid disappointment.
A few additional pointers for your container garden:
And regardless whether your newly-planed garden is in a bed in your yard, or in a container on your stairs, deck or balcony, check it daily. Look for unwanted bugs or disease, pick off dead leaves and flowers and check the soil for dryness: push your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle and if the soil is dry, apply enough water to reach the root zone.
It’s also important to manage your expectations. Everyone has seen the pictures of the perfect garden — and new gardeners often start out believing that they will achieve this in their first year.
But, trust us, start out slow, be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them.
And take heart in knowing that even though Mark has been gardening for more than 40 years, he continues to make mistakes and learn. This is part of the process and with time, you will enjoy the revelations that failure can bring.