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How To Prepare Your Garden For Spring

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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Late last summer, we moved into a new property. The bones in the gardens looked good, but I had no idea what spring would reveal.

Winter here was colder, wetter and much longer than usual, so the itch to get out there has been left unscratched for months. But late last week, the sun began to peak out from all the clouds, and the earth was warming up. I decided to get my hands dirty.

Not knowing what was below the ground and what surprises I might face, I gingerly began the process of cleaning up, and clearing out. Hundreds of bulbs had been planted here (at some point) but few of them were blooming. Nevertheless, some work was needed. So I set about it methodically and with great determination.

The end results have been hopeful, so I'd like to share some of the tips I used to make this job both fun and rewarding.

First, clear away all the loose debris. If you have a garden waste pick-up, find out when they come and how frequently and any restrictions on what can and cannot be included.

Second, gently rake away leaves and any small twigs that might have been dropped or blown into your garden by the wind. You need to be able to see what is at the surface of the garden. This will also give you a good view of the soil content. Mine has a lot of gravel in it, so it wasn't very pretty; as well, gravel is an indicator that your soil might lack nutrients.

So, third, get some really good fertilizer -- I prefer the all natural ones, that are made of compost, sea-soil, or sea kelp. Sprinkle it around according to the manufacturers' directions. If you are working with a clay soil, then dig or scratch the fertilizer in around the plants. And if you have roses, make sure the add a bit of epsom salts; that will provide magnesium for the roses and give them a good boost.

Next, speaking of roses, this is the time to give them their spring 'hair-cut'. Trim away all the three d's -- dead, diseased, decayed. Make sure you are using a really sharp pair of secateurs, and rinse them off with alcohol when you are done. As you are trimming, make sure that the bud just below your cut is facing outward, and not in toward the center. This will ensure that the roses have lots of room to breathe and will discourage mildews and black spot from becoming a problem. Your roses will thank you for this work by providing lots of blooms.

Fifth, clean out any garden props such as bird baths, bird feeders, or other ornaments. These can hold water which is a breeding ground for garden pests, so clean them out early. Use a mild solution of bleach and water to ensure that any disease spores are also eliminated.

Top dress your gardens with a good quality soil, and a fine mulch of shredded bark. I like to use at least 2 inches of each, producing a 4-inch barrier through which any weeds will have a hard time emerging. The mulch will also help retain moisture during the dryer summer season, and -- over time will bio-degrade to add much-needed humus to your garden soil. After about three years, you can dig it into your garden and then top-dress again.

And lastly, use a good pressure washer to clean your patios. You want the best unit for the job otherwise you will be wasting water and energy. Pressure washers will probably be your most environmentally friendly choice. There will be no local exhaust however you should know where your power is coming from.