Spring cleaning for your garden

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Backyard Gardener, By Patti Sharpe

If only the weather were more spring like!

Mother nature is playing a cruel April Fool’s Day joke on us.

As I write this column, a blizzard is swirling outside my window and it continues to grow worse as the day passes. Just yesterday I saw the tips of tulips poking through a flowerbed and had hoped spring had arrived. If the snow would just leave and stay away we could undertake a few early spring garden tasks.

Most gardens and yards need a good cleaning up following the winter. With the strong winds of recent months my yard is littered with branches and two large spruce trees have come down. The branches can be dealt with in a morning, but the trees will require a few days to turn them into next year's firewood.

Avoid walking on wet, mucky lawns and flower beds as it compacts the soil, but once the frost comes out of the ground and things dry up, flower beds and lawns can be raked and cleaned up. The beds are usually full of last year’s leaves and rotten plant matter.

Be careful when raking not to damage tender perennials that might be beginning to emerge. Ornamental grasses and any of last year’s perennials left standing can be cut back now before new growth starts.

Now is also a good time to prune shrubs and trees before leaves start to emerge. Early spring bloomers — forsythia, daphne, lilacs, etc. — are best pruned after they bloom or you’ll remove this year’s blossoms.

For all others, the rule of thumb is to remove no more than a third of the branches in any given year. Dead branches can be removed at any time. Removal of branches from the centre of overgrown shrubs and trees will allow light to get in and spark new growth.

Continue to start seeds of frost tender plants indoors throughout April. The Farmer’s Almanac indicates we’ll be frost free after May 30, so it’ll likely be early June before these seedlings can safely be set out. Don't forget to harden them off gradually before planting out.

As soon as the ground can be worked, cold hardy plants such as peas, spinach, lettuce and sweet peas can be sown directly in the garden. Compost and fertiliser can also be worked into the soil at this time.

It’s also a good time to empty birdhouses of last year’s nesting debris. I usually have tree swallows returning around Apr. 25 and they waste no time selecting a house and starting to build a nest.

Many garden centres have been offering regular seminars on gardening topics in the run up to the growing season. I attended two at Blomidon Nurseries in February and March. It’s a great opportunity to learn something new and meet other gardeners. The Halifax Seed Company in Halifax has some very interesting seminars planned in the coming months at a minimal cost. Visit the website (https://www.halifaxseed.ca) for more information and to register.

My next column will bring you news of lots of gardening events happening in and around central Nova Scotia in May and June.  

Patti Sharpe is a long-time resident of Great Village and actively involved in various organizations within her community. Send your news to her at sharpep@eastlink.ca.

Organizations: Halifax Seed Company

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Great Village

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