Living

Get gardening: Spring clean up

Expert tips to get your garden blooming

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Birds are nesting, buds are swelling, snowdrops and crocuses are in bloom and the daffodils are on deck. It’s almost spring—time to give your yard a tune-up!

We’ll show you how to get your lawn in tip top shape, get a head start on planting sunflowers, prune your roses and move your shrubs.

Come back next month for tips on how to divide perennials, stake tall plants, edge and weed, and select the perfect summer bulbs.

The grass is always greener
Start winter cleanup when the lawn is no longer sopping wet from the snowmelt—going out on the grass too early can cause more damage than good. Early spring is also a great time to:

· Sharpen and oil your pruners and clean your garden tools, including your lawnmower which needs sharp blades to cut grass cleanly.
· Re-seed bare or damaged patches of lawn: scratch up the soil with a rake first, then add a shovel of soil and sprinkle grass seeds. Rake level and keep well-watered until seeds germinate.
· Prepare flower and veggie beds. Once the soil has dried out, divide and transplant perennials. In beds that have bare soil, work about 5 cm of compost or well-rotted manure into the top 15 to 20 cm. But don’t dig-up existing perennial beds; simply layer compost or manure on top of the soil between your plants to avoid disturbing the roots.

You are my sunshine
Nothing says summer like sunflowers. This year, why not grow your own? Now’s the perfect time to plant sunflower seeds indoors under grow-lights or near a sunny window to give them a head start.

· Use 8 cm jiffy peat pots—ideal for plants like sunflowers that don’t like to be transplanted—and sow two seeds per pot. Once seeds germinate (about 10 to 14 days), pinch out the weakest plant so you have one per pot. Water and fertilize regularly.
· In mid-May, get your plants used to the outdoors gradually, starting in a shady spot and then giving them more sun each day until they get adjusted.
· Plant sunflowers in the garden, pot and all (the roots will grow through the pot) once all chance of frost is over. Or to grow them in containers, transplant to larger pot. And remember, like their name, sunflowers like full sun and warm weather.

Spring rose pruning
Early spring is the ideal time to prune roses. Do this job just before the roses leaf out.

· Prune newly planted roses back with three strong canes, 10-12 cm long. With established rose bushes, cut any dead or diseased shoots to ground level.
· Remove crossing shoots, leaving 3 to 6 thick, healthy stems or canes. Cut these back to live wood, make the cut with sharp shears, about 5 mm above an outward facing bud.
· After pruning, fertilize roses with rose fertilizer according to manufacturer’s directions; if you prefer, substitute organic sources such as fish emulsion, finished compost, or well-rotted manure.

Shrub shifting
If a young shrub or tree is growing in the wrong place, early spring is a good time to move it. Be sure to do this before the leaves come out. You’ll need a spade or shovel and one or two sturdy pieces of burlap big enough for you and a helper to carry the plant.

· Dig a trenched circle around the plant. Make it wide enough to get a decent-sized root ball.
· Cut under the root ball with your spade to free the plant. Carefully work a piece of burlap under and around it.
· If the root ball is very heavy, hoist it into a cart or wheelbarrow.
· Replant, water and mulch. Keep moist until plant is re-established in its new home.

Now that you’ve cleaned-up for spring, check out Yvonne’s tips to add height, depth and colour to your beds.