Spring has sprung in the garden

Winter is on the other side, and people are flocking into their gardens. It makes my heart sing. There are a few spring chores you should be tackling at the moment which will help get your garden off and running for the growing season.

First and foremost, start at the ground and move up. Amend your soil. This might include adding compost, manure, leaf mold, sea soil, etc. Whatever type of organic matter you have on hand, now is the time to start working it into the soil.

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Divide your perennials. If you noticed large clumps of perennials last summer that were taking up more space than desired, now is a great time to divide them. As long as the crowns of the plants have poked through the soil, you are good to go. If you have a clump of flowers that have been dying out from the centre, it is often a sign that the perennial needs to be divided. This helps to regenerate the clump and flush out your flowers.

Ornamental grasses need a bit of tending. Smaller grasses like Helictotrichon (blue oat grass) don't necessarily need to be cut back, but they do respond well to a "haircut." Run your hands through the blades of grass and pull out all the old, brown, overwintered fronds and the grasses will immediately look tidier.

Larger grasses like Miscanthus should be cut back now. Cut back to 12 inches or until you see signs of new spring growth emerging. If you wait too long into the growing season, you risk cutting down the new growth and it will end up looking stubby and not as lush.

Most deciduous shrubs will respond well to a small pruning in the spring. Generally you only need to prune for size, and to remove dead, diseased or dying branches. Some shrubs in the garden bloom on last year's growth, so keep your pruners away from forsythia, lilac, mock orange, enkianthus, choisya, etc. Wait to prune these early spring flowering shrubs until after the blooms are finished.

Lots of gardeners like to start their seeds indoors. If you are one of this intrepid bunch, you can start tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.Hardy herbs are good, too, like parsley, chives, oregano, dill, mint and lemon balm.

I am a lazy veggie gardener and abide by the direct-sow school of thought. Basically anything that can be directly sown into the garden in early spring equals not having to start the seed indoors. This means waiting for the soil to warm, but it also saves me having a windowsill full of leggy seedlings that I generally forget to water.

Direct sow your peas, broad beans, corn salad, and oriental greens anytime now. In the next few weeks I will be planting lettuce, spinach, radish and kale. Potato growers generally plant seed potatoes by St. Patrick's Day.

Happy planting.

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