Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is It Too Early?

I was watching the weather report this evening and during the discussion about the early warm weather we're having the question arose whether it is too soon to start gardening.  Well, that depends.  When warm weather hits it is almost impossible to keep us gardeners out of our yards.  It's what we live for. Every fall we hang up our tools and then spend the winter plotting what we will do come spring.  When warm weather arrives we've already spent months dreaming of the day we're able to get outside.  So get out and enjoy it I say.  But take care in what spring gardening chores you start with.  The fact is that spring weather is always a bit hit and miss and despite some warm weather there is likely a few frosts and even the possibility of snow still in the forecast over the coming month.  Instead of planting up hanging baskets or putting out annuals which will likely be injured by cold weather, try raking your lawn.  Any leaves that you missed in the fall can be raked up and any tree branches that have come down over the winter can be picked up so when it's time to mow there will be nothing in the way.  As well, a light raking will pull up some of the dead grass and unclog the soil surface allowing air, water and sunshine to get at the new grass trying to push it's way through.  Once you've done that, add a layer of fine compost to provide a cover of mulch to your grass and provide nutrients.  

The main issue I've had with starting gardening too quickly is the urge to clean out flower beds.  It's so lovely to cut back the dead perennials from last season and see the new greenery coming up.  But beware!!  Uncovering your beds too early leaves them vulnerable to frosts and snow which may damage new shoots making their way up.  Now that I've learned better I always try to leave a layer of leaves and dead perennials in place until I'm sure all signs of frost are past.  This year is different in that I have inherited several flower beds with our property and now that the snow is gone I have had a chance to take a good look at them and yikes!!  What a mess. 

I don't believe any weeding has been done in several years and the weeds are completely taking over, making the bed hardly visible.  In this case I chose to start cleaning out my beds a little earlier than normal.  It's going to take me some time to get through all these beds so I need to start as early as I can.  Also, most of the plant material I'm cutting back is weeds so if there is any damage it's not going to be to any choice plants.  In this particular photo I'm not sure what the vine strangling the tree in the center is but it certainly isn't doing the tree any good so in I went with my clippers.  Other plants in the bed were cut to around knee level simply so I could see what I was dealing with.

As you can see in the second photo some roses and a mountain ash emerged from the bed. There are also some old tree stumps adding some character to this spot. Another exciting find.  As soon as I had opened up the area my mind began to race with the possibilities - perhaps a clematis draped across a stump or a second clump of roses. Obviously this spot will need lots of work in the months to come but this is a great start. I can spend the next month making plans for renovating this bed and when the weather is truly warm I will be able to get right to work.