Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Garden

Are you anxious to see bulbs sprouting, buds unfurling and colorful blooms throughout the garden? There is plenty you can do to gear up for the gardening season.

Trimming and Pruning
April is a great month for trimming and tidying. Now is when you should cut back your ornamental grasses 4-6 inches from the ground. Compost the old growth and look for new, green shoots to appear in a few weeks. Most roses appreciate a good pruning now, too.
Trees and shrubs can be pruned now if you haven't done it already. Fruit trees, evergreens, many deciduous trees, grapevines and roses can all be trimmed and shaped before new growth begins.

Improve the soil of your perennial beds
Good, healthy and rich soil is the most important element for a beautiful garden.
Don't skimp soil improvment!
Empty your compost and mix with good garden soil - or if you do not (yet) compost get at least composted manure, spread it 6-8 inch thick on your garden beds and work it into your last years soil. This is so much better for your plants than the synthetic fertizilers that are sold for top dollar at garden centers. One exemption is natural bone meal that should be added to the soil every time you plant something new in your garden and bone meal, a natural fertilizer to fix nitrogen defencies.

Edging and weeding garden beds
By digging and teasing out weeds now when they are small, you save yourself countless hours of weeding in the summer heat. Cutting in a neat edge on your garden beds also slows weeds' progress and gives your landscape a neat, professional appearance.
Weed not only the flower beds but also your lawn - now, when the weeds are still small.

Mulch all your garden beds
Mulch has lots of benefits:
- A thick layer of mulch (6-9 inches) helps to surpress weeds
- It keeps the soil longer moist - less watering
- Mulched beds look more attractive and tidier
- Mulch balances temperatures, important in our hot summers and cold winters

But use only the natural mulch, not the "dyed or colored" type which could be toxic. (studies in Florida have found levels of arsenic in colored mulches to exceed Federal safety limits in over 75% of the samples tested). The preservatives used in the colorant may also inhibit the growth of many beneficial soil microbes that prevent disease in plants. The dry wood waste and old pallets also have a very high Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (C:N>200) hence if supplemental nitrogen is not added, it may cause a nitrogen tie-up in the soil. Healthy fertile soil has a C:N ratio of only 30:1 hence nitrogen is pulled from the soil as microbes try to break down and decompose the colored mulch. This often results in poor plant growth with increased disease and insect problems.
Also be aware about children and pets in your garden and purchase only natural mulch.