With spring just a few months away, you may be eager to dust off your gardening gloves and haul out those pruning shears to get your garden ready for planting. If you've always wanted the dream front yard that will make your neighbours green with envy, Sam Benvie, an instructor in the Landscape Design Certificate Program at Ryerson University's G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, offers up these simple tips:
1. To help keep spring and summer fungal diseases and insect pests at bay, treat plants, fruit trees (i.e. – apple, pear) and shrubs with dormant oil (special type of mineral oil) and lime sulphur twice a week in the second half of March. This is most effective if done on a relatively warm day with no wind.
2. Mid spring is the ideal time to plant or transplant evergreen coniferous trees, particularly yews. Be sure to place the tree at the same level in its new position. Keep it very well watered. A week after planting, apply a high-phosphate fertilizer to stimulate vigorous root development.
3. If you planted spring-flowering bulbs in the fall, watch in March for their appearance. As the tips emerge, pull any mulching back from the leaves. Start watering regularly. In mid-March, apply a balanced fertilizer. This will help unify the floral display and enhance the vigor of the plants.
4. Early spring is the time to inspect trees and shrubs for winter die-back (a process that occurs when tips of branches or shoots start dying from pests or disease) and prune any dead or damaged branches. Trees that have suffered drought the summer before are more likely to sustain winter die-back. Removing die-back early in spring will help the plant recover its characteristic form quickly.
5. Spring is a good time to divide perennials just as the first buds appear. Work quickly with a sharp-edged spade to separate portions of the parent plant. Once the divided portions are replanted, water well. A week later, apply a high-phosphate fertilizer to stimulate vigorous root development.
6. In places beside or near where de-icing salts have been used over the winter, it is helpful to water the soil well several times to flush any residual salt out of the soil. Follow this with a high-phosphate fertilizer to stimulate vigorous root development so that the plants quickly recover.
7. The best time to sow perennial plant seeds is in mid-spring. It helps to presoak the seeds in warm water for a day or two beforehand, and then sow the seed as advised on the package. This will improve the rate and overall success of germination. Keep the soil and seed moist until the seedlings are re-established.