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Garden Primer, Part Six: 8 Tips to Help Your Garden Grow This Spring
BY Charlie Dobbin | May 2nd, 2022
You would think I know better. I followed the rules, and didn’t sow any seeds indoors until we were eight weeks away from our usual last frost. In my area, it’s the first week of May. However, this has been a prolonged, cool spring. So, even without a frost, the ground will still be too cool for me to start installing plants outdoors for several weeks. And oh, you should see my office, living room, kitchen and basement! They are just filled with pots of basil, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, parsley and all kinds of interesting annual flowers. Varieties I’ve never grown before. Once real warmth arrives, I’m pumped and prepped, and ready to go!
In the meantime, here’s a synopsis of what’s going on in my garden:
- My birthday in April turned into a bird feeder bonanza – I received three new bird feeders with poles, and lots of seed. A special one to attract cardinals, another to attract orioles, and another to sustain all the dozens of finches that just keep coming and gorging on the sunflower seeds. It’s a job — no question — keeping the feeders clean and filled, but I love it!
- The cool spring has been perfect to prolong the beauty of our spring bulbs. Enjoy the colour and early awakening insects that need pollen and nectar to survive. But, whatever you do, don’t remove any of their leaves until they are completely yellow. The yellowing leaves of tulips and daffodils aren’t pretty, but they need to be left intact as long as they are green in order for the bulbs to “fatten up” for next year.
- Weeds and more weeds! It’s never too early to start pulling, and you’ll be happy in the long run if you can dig out weeds when they’re young. The soil is moist, the roots are shallow and with a good screwdriver or weeder you’ll get them into the composter easily. Keep in mind many “weeds” are actually quite tasty and full of great vitamins and minerals. Young dandelion or plantain leaves are absolutely yummy in a quick salad.
- Protect your hostas from slugs in the future, now. Sprinkle iron phosphate or spray 10 parts water to one part household bleach on the surface of the soil around your hosta plants. Best time is when you are seeing the little buds or “noses” just beginning to emerge from the soil
- This is the best time to prune our tender roses right down to 4 inches (10 cm). Choose a dry day, sharp pruners and wear gauntlets. Climbing roses and shrub roses will need a less rigorous pruning. Fertilizing your roses at the same time is optimal.
- If you haven’t attended to your lawn yet, it’s definitely time. Rake, top dress with some quality topsoil and overseed where the lawn is sparse. Dig weeds early! Fertilize with a spring fertilizer if you didn’t apply a fall fertilizer.
- Monitor temperatures. When overnight temperatures reach 13 degrees (55 F) sow bean seeds directly in the garden. Wait another week or two for temperatures to increase before sowing peas, carrots, zucchini and other seeds outside. And get ready to plant more tender annual flowers and vegetables outside, too, when the temperature is higher (check planting instructions). If you have seedlings indoors now, start ‘hardening them off’ on warm days. Slowly introduce them to the ‘real’ world of sun and wind by taking them outside for a few hours a day, then back inside for the night. It takes a few weeks, but is totally worth the effort.
- Don’t rush into planting tender vegetables like tomatoes and peppers on the Victoria Day weekend. Wait another week or 10 days before you plant them into their outdoor locations. The soil will be warmer and they will likely outperform any that are planted earlier.
Charlie Dobbin hosts The Garden Show With Charlie Dobbin on Zoomer Radio AM740 [a ZoomerMedia property] every Saturday at 9 a.m., ET.