It seems that spring brings out the best of intentions in most of us as well an equivalent amount of initiative and energy, perhaps it’s the returning sun. Whatever the reason, this time of the year energizes even the most winter-worn, lethargic and complacent of us so surge into the awakening garden and ‘do something’.
My process for winterizing the garden in the fall includes covering all my perennial beds with leaves and the detritus from raking the lawn. This cover provides a cozy blanket of insulation for the most tender of my plants as well, winter quarters for ladybugs. Naturally in the early spring everything looks rather ‘yucky’, generally is sloppy wet and riddled with winter debris and trash that has blown in. Nevertheless, this mess must be removed sooner than later as it can cause more damage to developing perennials than the odd bit of spring frost. It’s rather a delicate process around some early shooting plants such as Pulmonaria so here is where I set down the rake and use my hands to carefully unveil this year’s growth. Other perennials such as Crane’s Bill Geranium and Telekia can take a fair amount of scrubbing and brushing to clean them up. Any spare parts that may litter the area can be replanted quickly or used again as currency in trade with the neighbours. Generally, once most of the winter leaf cover is removed you will get your first glimpses of dark rich soil, a true pleasure after so much snow. I take this time to scuffle the soil with my three-clawed cultivator to disturb the soil enough to expose any germinating weed seeds. This initial disturbance is also very beneficial if you are plagued with lily beetles that hibernate in the soil near your precious lily collection. Dormant larvae or grubs can be exposed and often succumb to the weather if not the gardener’s tools.
My front garden is festooned with a thick mat of Myosotis or Forget-me-not; well named as if you should forget to thin them out, your entire garden, lawn as well as the neighbour’s will be a bright blue sea of flowers. Actually, not entirely bad but they are voracious invaders and take over so cultivation and thinning out is important at least once in the spring. These plant bits as well as the sodden leaf litter make for excellent compost; a proper mixture of green and brown to get things off to a good start. The compost that has accumulated over the winter is slowly thawing exposing the kitchen scraps from a great many wonderful meals. We use compostable liner bags for the kitchen organic matter and they really work. Dissolving in record time along with the peelings and grounds, this makes the process very easy, even all winter long. While investigating the compost bins, (a truly exciting endeavour which makes for grand small talk at cocktail parties and such) give the contents a stir, if you can. Once the weather warms significantly the compost bins will work away silently providing you with gardener’s gold in no time.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to access your finished compost, early spring is an ideal time to apply a thin layer for incorporation around your perennials. It is a good idea to cultivate the compost or well rotted manure into the perennial bed early, this way you are not damaging foliage of the growing plants. Spring rains of course will leach the nutrients and micro organisms of the compost into the root active zone of the plant with amazing results to follow. Some gardeners apply organic materials throughout the growing season, continuously increasing the nutrient base and overall texture of the soil. The trouble with my compost is that I can never produce enough so I resort to bagged manure(s) in addition to compost.
Have a terrific time in the garden rooting and rummaging through as you plan what will go where in the weeks to follow… relish the excitement and anticipation.
April 15th, 2018