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Action plan for your best garden ever – Mar/Apr2016

Action plan for your best garden ever - Mar/Apr2016

❏SPRAY Apply dormant spray to your fruit trees, roses, most flowering trees and shrubs as soon as evening temperatures remain above freezing. This may not be soon, but now know. Dormant spray is a two-bottle arrangement that you buy in a box. One bottle contains a refined mineral oil called dormant oil. It smothers overwintering insect egg casings and prevents the first generation of tent caterpillars from taking over your crab apple; same with aphids on your roses.

The second bottle is lime sulphur, a natural disease suppressant. The active bacteria and spores that promote powdery mildew and sooty mould are discouraged by the smell of this stuff. I recommend that you spray it and go run some errands for a few hours. Lime sulphur smells like rotten eggs, but it works.

❏ PRUNE Now is the time to prune most any fruiting trees, especially apples, peaches, apricots and nectarines. Open up their structure by removing a portion of the branches that grow in the interior of the tree. Let the sun shine on the fruit as it ripens and remove some of the top growth, allowing wind to whistle through. Sunshine and breezes encourage evenly ripened fruit and discourage the diseases and insects that the dormant spray didn’t reach. It’s also good time of year to prune cedar hedges and junipers. Shaping them now produces a soft, finished look in a month or two as new growth appears.

Leave your pear tree unless it is unruly or getting in your way. They generally don’t like being pruned.

❏ FERTILIZE Your lawn stored up nutrients at its root zone last fall, which is why it explodes out of the soil with the warming temperatures and increased rainfall of spring. Soon, however, it outgrows the available nutrients in the soil and weeds compete their way into the lawn, and insects are tempted by its weakened state.

None of this happens, to the same extent, when a quality fertilizer is applied early in spring. A product with slow-release nitrogen provides a safe, lasting green as this is the one element that your lawn craves the most after a long winter.

The addition of iron, at least one percent in the bag, is the key to a greener lawn. Use a quality lawn fertilizer that contains chelated iron, a type of iron that is available in a form that grass plants can readily absorb. There is a new form of iron on the market called “DDP” which produces extraordinary results.

Thicken your lawn with fresh grass seed spread on thin areas. Put down 2 or 3 cm of lawn soil first, spread the seed evenly, rake smooth, and step on it so the seed makes firm contact with the soil. Water regularly until germination occurs.

❏ ENHANCE The nutrients in your garden and container soil were used up, primarily, by last year’s plants. You can replenish those nutrients by adding generous quantities of composted manure.

April is the time to dig generous quantities of composted cattle or sheep manure into your garden beds. I spread 20 kg over a square metre of soil and turn it under, or work it in with a cultivator or garden fork, or leave it and let the earthworms pull it down. I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of adding finished compost to your garden soil.

❏ REPLACE Containers should have last year’s soil removed and placed on the garden. Scrape out the inside of each pot with a stiff brush to remove the caked-on soil replace with fresh container mix. Use one of the quality mixes because you do get what you pay for with this product. I like Pro Mix, CIL Potting Soil and my own Mark’s Choice container mix.

Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is the Lawn & Garden Expert for Home Hardware. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at