It's officially spring, and the snow is melting--that means it's time to head outdoors and tidy up the yard and garden beds in preparation for spring planting! Don't forget to look at your trees and shrubs and see if you need to do any pruning before the growing season begins. Our gardening expert Jim Hole knows Alberta crops and conditions, and he's ready with a few early spring thoughts.
Q: The snow is melting, and weather getting warmer. What to do first in the yard?
Hole: Use a gentle rake, maybe one with plastic tines, and go over the yard lightly, to get the matted, brown leaves and dead material up and off the grass. You want to let air get to the new growth. Then we need lots of spring rain to get things started.
Q: What about pruning shrubs and trees?
Hole: You don't want to fear or ignore pruning, but you have to ask yourself why you're pruning something--are the branches in danger of breaking off and damaging the tree health? Study up on a favourite tree or shrub in the yard and learn when it's the right time to prune. A lilac, for example, sets its flower buds in summer, so it shouldn't be pruned now, or you'll get no flowers this year. But a rose bush is set on current year's growth, so it'd bloom this year even with pruning. If you have new trees, train them as they grow, by pruning regularly. Use the right tools, of course.
Q: The black knot fungus is in the news for the Edmonton area. What is it? Should we be concerned?
Hole: It's not new--black knot fungus has been around a long time but yes, if you see it on your tree, prune the branch back a foot from the fungus spot, bag and dispose of it. It's infectious and can eventually kill a tree. That goes for any diseased, damaged or dead branches. For that, prune at any time.
Q: I'm anxious to plant. Is it too soon?
Hole: For cold-loving plants, you can start planting in early April--spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard. Stagger plant by sowing seeds every week or two, using a seed tape if possible--that's ideal. We never planted all at once on the farm. And don't worry if things don't survive. My mother always said a pack of seeds is cheap to buy, so 'live dangerously' and plant.