Preparing your garden in spring doesn\’t have to be complicated. Enjoy a sunny afternoon by donning your gardening gloves and taking these easy, basic steps for gardens big or small, perennial or vegetable. Your first step is to clear the clutter.
Preparing your garden in spring doesn’t have to be complicated. Enjoy a sunny afternoon by donning your gardening gloves and taking these easy, basic steps for gardens big or small, perennial or vegetable. Your first step is to clear the clutter.
Start by clearing away scattered leaves and fallen branches that have settled in the garden over the winter. Gently scoop up debris in your hands or with a fan rake (a heavy rake may damage perennials below the surface or tender shoots above ground).
Once the winter dross is off the beds, you can see the structure of the garden. Cut away old stems and foliage from last year’s growth with sharp secateurs, being careful not to damage new growth.
Catch Weeds Early
If perennial weeds like couch grass are poking through, spend a bit of time teasing the rhizomatous roots out with a turning fork or trowel. Pulling or tearing at couch grass causes the roots to spread and become a much bigger problem throughout the summer. Dig dandelions out by the roots (and add the greens to your salad). Loosen compacted areas of soil with a fork; perennial weeds thrive in compacted soil. Hoe chickweed and other annual weeds.
The Master Gardeners’ Secret
Healthy soil is the key to beautiful, vibrant plants. Add compost from the compost pile if you have one. If not, apply composted manure to your gardens every spring. Composted manure provides nutrients and organic matter to the soil that will sustain your gardens for most of the growing season.Manure is available from local farmers, but ensure that it’s aged, not fresh. The most convenient source of odour-free, moist, composted manure is your local gardening centre, where bags are cheap and readily available.
Use a scoop or spade to sprinkle a layer of about 1 cm around the bases of plants and over the entire garden. A 22-kg bag covers a bed of up to 10 m2.
Good Bugs, Bad Bugs
Lure bug-eating birds to your gardens with plenty of feeders filled with black sunflower seeds, birdbaths, and bird boxes.
Slugs love wet coastal areas and heavy rains and are attracted to smooth-stemmed plants such as hostas and delphiniums, but not to hair or rough-textured plants such as snapdragons or mulleins. Protect slug-prone plants by banking wooded mulch or crushed eggshells around them. Slugs are beer lovers, so put a little beer in flat saucers for them to drown in.
Destroying caterpillars and slugs by hand is the most effective strategy, so be brave and wear your gardening gloves! Slug eggs look like tapioca. Look for them and destroy by hand.
Companion planting also repels insects. Interplant garlic or onions among your other plants, as most insects are repelled by their smell. Nasturtiums repel tree borers, and marigolds repel nematodes.
Most bugs are good bugs, so never broadcast-spray insecticides on your garden.
Earthworms are every gardener’s best friend, aerating soil and enabling nutrients to get to plant roots. Ants eat bad bugs–even caterpillars–and ladybugs eat aphids. If aphids do become a problem, spray organic insecticidal soap directly onto the bugs on dry, windless evenings when most insects are active and obvious.
The Fruits of Your Labours
You will have less upkeep over the summer just by ensuring you do a little preparation in the spring. As your gardens draw life from healthy, balanced soil, free from perennial weeds, they will thank you a thousand times over with the showiest floral displays or best-tasting vegetables you’ve ever had.
Gardener’s Black Gold
Compost–including composted manure–acts as a slow-release fertilizer, providing nutrients to the soil and plants as needed.
Avoid chemical and artificial fertilizers, which only give a short-term boost without benefiting the soil for the long-term. Compost also provides nutrients that healthy soils need and improves soil structure by providing humus, improved aeration, moisture retention, and increased microbial activity that enables plants to make better use of micronutrients and minerals.
It encourages earthworms and beneficial fungi, creating healthy soil able to fight nematodes and other soil pests. Healthy plants are more resistant to disease, drought, and pests.