It might not seem like it just yet, especially with the amount of rain we saw in March, but summer really isn’t that far off. Before you know it, you’ll be planning your outdoor living space … dreaming of those lazy, balmy summer nights enjoying your backyard oasis with family and friends.
For the April task on our 2015 Home Maintenance Tasks Calendar, REW.ca went to expert gardener Miles Hunter, general manager of David Hunter Garden Centers, for advice on how to prepare your gardens and lawns for your best outdoor summer living yet!
1) First Things First: Clean Up
For your shrubs, trees and gardens to bloom and thrive, you must first clean up last year’s dead material, such as leaves from your deciduous trees. You can compost them or rake them right into your soil.
“If you have compost bin, in which the organic waste has broken down for a year, add that into your garden beds along with some manure and granular fertilizer,” says Hunter. “You only need to purchase more soil if you want to build up and raise your garden beds.”
2) Lime Your Lawn
Hunter says lime is an extremely important soil conditioner that helps your lawn absorbs fertilizer and deters moss from growing. Lime does not kill moss, but does neutralize the pH of the soil, making fertilizer applications more effective. For optimal effects, he suggests you apply lime in spring and again in fall.
3) Apply Moss Control
With all the rain comes moss. Before your moss goes dormant in the summer heat, you should take steps to kill and remove the moss in your lawn. To do this, apply either a liquid or granular moss control to affected areas. Then a few days later, use a power rake to remove the dead moss. Then apply a thin layer of soil or sand followed by an application of grass seed to grow where the moss was.
4) Fertilize Your Lawn
The beauty of your lawn – its resistance to disease, insects, moss and weeds – depends largely on how you feed it. With our heavy West Coast rainfalls, much of the mineral content (food or fertilizer) of the soil is washed away each year.
Lawns should be fed at regular intervals. Hunter recommends an application of 28-3-8 (28 per cent nitrogen, 3 per cent phosphorus and 8 per cent potash) in early spring. This will feed your lawn for 10 to 12 weeks. For late spring and summer, he recommends using a combination of 12-4-8. This feeds your lawn for six to eight weeks. Fertilizing should be done when the grass is dry. To ensure an even application, it is best to use a fertilizer spreader.
When you apply fertilizer, you should water your lawn to make sure that the fertilizer make it to the soil and does not remain on the leaves where it could burn them.
“In addition, because we’ve had a relatively mild winter, slugs and aphids might show up in your gardens early this year,” he says.
These pesky critters can wreak havoc on your leaves and flowers, and the worse-case scenario is infected leaves and flowers will drop. Hunter says there are some good slug baits and a number of insecticidal soaps that can get rid of aphids available at your local garden shop.
It’s also been a bad year for the European chafer beetle. Because this invasive species multiplies rapidly and feeds on roots of all kinds of plants, including your grass, your lawn can look like hell. “Not only that, crows, skunks and raccoons like the taste of the beetle larva,” adds Hunter. “Contact your garden centre for the best control measures.”
5) Dress Your Lawn
After power raking and/or aerating, your lawn may appear sparse. You can rejuvenate your lawn with peat moss for sandy soils, peat and sand for clay soils, sand if you have wet soil, or top soil. You can also apply a thin layer of lawn seed to help fill in the spaces left by the power rake.
6) Prune Trees and Shrubs
Now is a great time to prune your small trees and/or shrubs. Pruning can help control the size of a tree or shrub, direct growth, influence flowering or fruiting, and/or maintain plant health and appearance.
7) Buy and Plant Trees, Shrubs, Perennials ... and New Tools
“In April, garden centres offer the best selection of trees, shrubs and perennials,” says Hunter.
They also feature fruit trees, blueberry bushes and hundreds of varieties of vegetable seeds. “West Coast Seeds Store offers a fantastic selection of organic, vegetable, flower and herb seeds that are best for our West Coast climate,” adds the veteran garden specialist.
You'll also need the right tools for all these job, so dust off your gardening tools from their storage and invest in some new ones if they are not up to the task.
This month, David Hunter Garden Center, at 15175 72nd Avenue, Surrey, is offering a series of garden workshops.
All are free except for its April 12 planter session.
- New introductions for this growing season – bedding, perennials, edibles and nursery stock;
- Create a spring planter – a hands-on session to make a seasonal planter (workshop cost: $25);
- Preparing floral and edible beds; and
- Hydrangeas, hostas and other great shade plants.
For more information, visit www.davidhuntergardencenters.com. Space for these seminars may be limited, so confirm your attendance by calling 604-590-2431 or sending a message via www.davidhuntergardencenters.com/contact/.