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Spring - to - do List

Spring to-do List By Jean Atkinson, Richbar Golf and Gardens

Here is my advice: burn calories (see list below) NOT leaves.

• All protective coverings on cedars and Dwarf Alberta Spruce should be removed by now. If left on too long, the coverings will have a greenhouse effect and trigger the plant to break dormancy too early. Pull back any protective mulch around tender plants to allow the soil to warm up.

• Don’t remove any mulch from the base of your fruit trees as this holds the frost in the ground a little longer, preventing the tree from flowering too early. This is especially true of plum trees. They bloom very early and often do not bear fruit as the blossoms succumb to frost.

• Tidy up your perennials by removing the old foliage. Most perennials can be cut right back, but there are a few exceptions. When cutting Russian Sage, leave at least 12” of old growth on, as the new shoots will emerge from these older buds. In general, it is easy to see if a perennial needs to be cut back completely or not. Some perennials are evergreen and will come through the winter with their leaves still green. Plants like Lavender and Periwinkle do not require pruning back, as they are semi-evergreen. Tall ornamental grasses can be pruned back to the ground. Small grasses like Fescue and Blue Oat Grass can just have any dead leaves raked out.

• All perennials, bulbs, small fruits, fruit trees and shrubs will benefit from an application of granular fertilizer such as 12-16-12. It provides a good source of phosphorous, which helps develop a strong root system and is important in flower and fruit production. Apply around the drip line of the plant.

• To kill any over-wintering fungus or insects spray trees and shrubs with dormant oil and lime –sulfur now before the buds break. Dormant oil controls scale insects that feed by sucking the sap causing twigs and branches to dry up. Susceptible plants include fruit trees, lilac, elm, mountain ash, juniper and yew. The best time to apply is before the buds break. The spray requires six to eight hours to dry and should be applied when the temperature is above 2 degrees Celsius.

• Apply Tangle foot, a sticky paste, to the bottom of the trees to stop insects from crawling upwards. Don’t apply the Tanglefoot directly onto the bark, but wrap the tree first with a 30cm band of wrap or brown paper. This is a great deterrent to ants. Ants farm aphids by bringing them up the leaves to feed. Then the ants enjoy the sticky nectar that the aphids produce.

• Rototill your garden and flowerbeds once the soil has dried and work in soil amendments such as compost or manure.

• Power -rake your lawn prior to fertilizing to reduce thatch build up. Aerating your lawn will reduce compaction and increase the rooting depth of the grass. Remember to locate your underground sprinkler heads before using the aerator. Fertilize your lawn in April with a good slow release fertilizer high in nitrogen such as 25-4-10.

• And finally, rake up your leaves and start a compost bin. Don’t contribute to the poor air quality that we have at this time of year by burning them. Those leaves will benefit your garden more than your smudge fire will.

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