Finally! The sun is shining and the earth pulsating with new life. My lawn is greening up and the birds are so hungry I have to fill the feeder twice a day. Here’s a list of must-do chores for this time of year when your body is still slightly out of shape from so much reading by the fire during those long, cold winter months we have endured. Start slowly at first. Don’t try to cram more than two hours a day into your garden clean-up.
First among my chores is to empty the bucket of ashes next to my fireplace, sprinkling its contents over the roots of my lilacs, which will thrive on them.
If I didn’t rake conscientiously in the Fall, now is the time to clear away the piles of dead leaves that have accumulated in corners of the garden.
Raking the lawn itself is also an option, especially if a lot of dead grass has accumulated. Most important is to spread organic fertilizer and Milky Spore to deter Japanese beetle grubs. Used over a two-year period – three applications per year in Spring, mid-Summer and Fall – it is the most effective deterrent I know of.
I’ve been watching conscientious gardeners carefully raking up all the accumulated sand by the roadside along their properties, which I will do this week. Also problematic is some of the sand, ‘rotten rock’ in this part of the world, my snowplow driver pushed into some of the planting beds along the sides of the driveway. Clear this away as soon as possible to let the plants underneath breathe again.
The truly advanced gardener will already have sown vegetable and flower seedlings indoors to grow under lights or next to a south-facing window. These include leeks, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, peppers, broccoli and zinnia. For the rest of us, it’s not too early to start planting seeds outdoors for lettuce, peas and spinach. All thrive on the cold soil and will mature earlier if planted now. Just keep an eye on moisture levels, as seeds need water to germinate.
Prune dead and broken branches from shrubs but leave the roses for now as the possibility of continuing frosts will turn the newly-pruned tips black and require further pruning when it gets warmer. Also, prune back the wisteria to two buds to encourage flower formation.
Clear away all dead branches and fallen debris from storms during the winter months and create a burn pile for which you will need a local permit. Do it now, as burning garden debris becomes increasingly hazardous as the weather gets warmer and the rainfall dries up.
Fertilize bulbs as they emerge from the soil and start to flower. They need this feeding on an annual basis. Also fertilize evergreen shrubs with acid fertilizer, which enables the plants to extract iron from the soil to keep them a dark, healthy green color.
If you’re in the market for new plants, especially fruit trees, plan on a trip to Fedco on the week-end of May 4-5. Their address is 213 Hinckley Rd., Clinton and you can find directions online.
When you’re all done, sit back with a hot cup of coffee or something stronger and enjoy the beauty that is starting to emerge all around you. Happy Gardening and Happy Spring!