Your Garden By The Season
Time to order your Quick & Easy Veggie Box! As soon as the snow is gone and the ground has thawed we're ready to tackle the many jobs of spring. Any dead foliage that was left over winter can be cleared to make room for fresh shoots. We like to gently cultivate and aerate the soil at the base of perennials to release vital nitrogen. Most perennials will also benefit from a light top dressing of natural compost. One of our faves is Meeker's Magic- a fish-based composted fertilizer. It's dry, odourless, mixes readily with all soils and is an all-natural, local (from Manitoulin) product to boot!
Pulling any early weeds from your beds and a mulch top-up will help discourage further invasion, and hooking up those rain barrels will provide free water later on. Now is the time to prune back ornamental shrubs, evergreens, and hedges to encourage denser, bushier growth or other desired forms. Shaping trees and shrubs during early spring dormancy before buds open allows for a better view of the branching structure, and for the plant to put energy into the right places once it leafs out. Now is also the time to prune flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood (spirea, most hydrangeas, modern roses). Old-wood bloomers (lilac, forsythia, weigela) should be left alone til just after they flower. Usually winter snow plowing has left gravel and sand in the wrong places- that not-so-fun job is part of our spring clean up services! Any areas of lawn that were damaged in the winter can be repaired with some fresh top soil and seed; the rest can be raked to break up the thatch layer. It's also the best time to lay sod or start new lawn areas from seed.
Mid to Late Spring
Plant, plant, plant! Greenhouses are expanding their stock every day, and we get to work on designing and installing new landscapes. As well, annuals can go in and veggie gardens can be planted once frost has passed. It's also a good time to divide perennials whose clumps are getting too big- why buy new plants when you can use your existing ones? Repeating patterns with hostas, lillies or really any perennial of the same variety throughout an area creates a unifying effect. The cooler, wetter weather of spring lets young plants or transplants grow into their new home and become well-established before growth gets inhibited by the hot, dry months of July and August. Trees and large starter shrubs can go in too, although fall is the ideal time for these. When planting we always check soil conditions; usually new plants will benefit from amending with a compost mix, a little natural bonemeal fertilizer and/or a mycorrhizae supplement. Proper planting technique is key to a long & healthy life for your perennials, shrubs and trees. Loosening or scoring root balls, getting the right width and depth for holes, removing air pockets, and a very generous watering-in are all vital.
Early to Mid Summer
Keeping beds tidy and enjoying the show of flowers is easy with a bit of weeding and removing spent blooms. Pruning off lilac blooms before they go to seed will ensure abundant blooms next year, as will keeping an eye on runners and other unwanted growth on your shrubs. It's still a good time to plant, provided adequate water is applied. Mostly you just want to enjoy your outdoor space, but are maybe thinking that some new hardscape features like a patio, paths to a shady retreat, or a fire pit would let you get the most out of it! A rain garden could be on your wish list, or maybe an interesting rock garden. If you've got an issue with invasive plants, often the only solution is constant vigilance with weeding and uprooting. For removing unwanted shoots between patio stones, pulling as much of the roots as possible should discourage reestablishment. Foliage from bulbs will have started going brown and has done its job to feed the bulb, so can be cut back.
With the hot days of summer many plants slow down their growth; it's not the best time to plant but can be done if you're prepared to water frequently. We continue with our regular maintenance schedules of weeding and keeping things looking good. It's a good time to schedule design work for fall planting and installation. Other outdoor work like installation and/or repairs to retaining walls and hardscapes can be done without fear of getting rained out for days on end.. hopefully! Lots of edibles will be ripe for picking by this time- nothing like enjoying fresh picked produce from your garden. Fresh herbs can be harvested at any time for tasty summer dishes and salads, yum!
Early to Mid Fall
Many flowering perennials truly shine in fall, as do ornamental grasses- it's also a great time to add splashes of colour with mums from our local nurseries. Maintenance we perform at this time of year includes: removing spent blooms for longer flowering, weeding, mulching, and cleaning up and/or cutting select perennials that are done for the season. Those that add visual interest (as we say "Winterest!") and ecological benefits can be left in the garden over winter. Ornamental grasses and the seed heads of many flowers provide appealing shapes and/or nourishment for wildlife, whereas others are best cut back to make room for fresh shoots in early spring.
Selective fall clean up will depend on your desired aesthetic, planned spring maintenance, and the variety of plants present. Fall is also the best time to plant new trees and large shrubs because it allows them to put energy into all-important root growth, rather than lots of top growth. Plants that can be pruned include woody vines and other vigorous growers whose underlying structure can be more easily seen once leaves have dropped away. Grass seeding on bare patches or to thicken lawns is also best done in the cooler and wetter days of early fall (or spring).
Now is the time to bury treasures for next spring! Bulbs are a vibrant, cheerful addition to any garden. We love getting muddy in the fall planting for future swaths of colour from an exciting array of tulips, crocuses, daffodils, fritillaria, allium, hyacinths and more! From elegant, coordinated stands to a relaxed woodland meadow style, bulbs give joy wherever they grow.
Other things to do in the garden in late fall include: protecting young or tender shrubs with burlap or screens, bringing sensitive potted plants indoors, plus any last minute winter prep like rain barrel turning, emptying pots, collecting leaves, adding mulch to beds, even grass seeding. Yup- it's called dormant seeding; since grass won't germinate below about 6 degrees, seeds can be sown just after frost sets in (November 1st-ish) to germinate next spring. This naturally mimics the way many grasses self-seed for next year, and the spring snow melt ensures there is plenty of moisture and cool temperatures for strong establishment.
We're outside working until that first wet snow comes. Then it's back inside to read up, plan, and enjoy the special peace that only blue sky and a snowy white blanket can bring, ahh!