Spring has well and truly arrived.
Here are some ways to feed your green thumb and get your knees dirty in your garden.
Make a plan
Then, make a list of what you’ll purchase when the season begins. Consider choosing native trees and shrubs as they’re adapted to our climate and therefore require less water and maintenance.
Once you decide what you’ll plant, figure out where you’ll plant. Spend about 30 minutes putting your plan to scale on graph paper, making note of how many square metres of each bed in the margins.
Not only will this plan help you determine your planting scheme, but calculating topsoil and other supplies become far easier as well.
Get your tools and equipment ready
Drag the garden hoe, spades and shovels out of storage and get to work cleaning them up. Use a wire brush to scrape off last year’s residue and then rinse well.
When they’re dry, squirt some WD-40® on a rag and use it to wipe down the face of each tool to help ward off the rust.
If they’re already rusty, soak them in a bucket of white vinegar for two to three hours, rinse them with water from the hose and then apply the WD-40®. Use sandpaper to lightly sand splinters from wood handles and then rub them with linseed oil.
Check the blades of your pruners, saws and other cutting equipment. Sticky blades can be cured with a wipe of rubbing alcohol (be careful if the blades are sharp).
If they’re not sharp, use a whetstone or file to sharpen them or, take them to a professional. Some Hardware and Garden stores offer gardening equipment sharpening (even lawnmower blades) and will sell sharpening kits.
Before you know it, you’ll be dragging out the lawn equipment as well so get a head start on the season by getting the mower, tiller and edger in top shape. In fact, the experts recommend that you give your equipment a tune-up at least once a year.
Start by cleaning the body, then change the oil and sharpen the blades. Check that all bolts and screws are tight and you’re ready to go.
Prepare planting pots
Whether you plan on buying existing plants for your flowerpots or starting them from seed, if you’ll be reusing last year’s containers you’ll need to get them cleaned up and disinfected.
Dump out the old soil and use a wire brush to remove any caked on fertilizer salts, roots and soil.
Wash each container with warm, soapy water and then rinse. Finally, allow the pots to soak for 15 minutes in a solution of one part household bleach and 9 parts of water. Rinse them again and allow them to air dry.
Yes, you can prune some plants
Some of the most popular flowering trees and shrubs must be pruned in cool weather to avoid disease.
But avoid pruning when the weather is damp. “Absolutely, do not prune if it’s wet out, it spreads a lot of diseases,” cautions horticulturists. “Wait until the sun’s out for a little while; it dries out and kills mould and bacteria,”.
When conditions are right, get outdoors and prune your apple tree, oaks and flowering crabapples.
Refer also to The Garden Clubs of Australia Guide. Start by thinning out any branches that cross over one another. This avoids raw bark when the wind blows and they rub together. Then, move on to thinning out crowded spots, to allow sunlight to penetrate and air to circulate, creating conditions inhospitable to many disease organisms.
Make the cut just above the swollen area where the branch joins another branch or the trunk (the branch collar).
Be brutal with the older shrub that didn’t perform well last season. Cut it down to within 15-20 cm of the soil.
This is also called “chainsaw pruning” and promises the shrub will fill out quickly and perform better when the weather warms.
Check the compost pile
“Even in winter, a compost pile is alive, an ecosystem in flux,” claims Genevieve Slocum at rodalesorganiclife.com.
She recommends that you continue to “feed” your compost pile with kitchen scraps, such as vegetable peelings, coffee grinds and eggshells, throw in some newspaper (shredded, of course), manure from chickens or rabbits if you raise them or blood meal if you don’t.
Add fallen leaves, straw and anything else that’s organic that you find in the garden. To help speed up decomposition, shred or chop everything into 5 cm or smaller pieces.
While composting in warmer temperatures involves merely throwing everything onto a pile,
Slocum recommends that here at the tail-end of winter we should create 5 to 10 cm layers of “green” items (kitchen scraps, etc.) and cover them with 10 to 20 cm layers of the “brown” items (torn up or shredded newspaper, hay, dead leaves, etc.).
Keep repeating the process until your compost pile is to the height you desire.
It’s not too late to get these jobs done now so you can enjoy the garden more as the weather continues to warm.
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