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Clean Up in Spring

Dianneand Gary Westlake

We know that the sun was out this week and you are itching to get out into the garden to get it cleaned up. Not so fast Bucko! Parts of your garden may be still frozen or it might be mushy. If you walk on it now, you might do more harm than good by compacting the soil. But if you have had the foresight as we have had to put stepping stones in strategic locations, you can reach in and clean off the dead material before the new stuff grows up through it to make a tangled mess. It could get cold again so slowly remove protective mulches from particularly tender specimens. If you will leave footprints in the lawn, donít walk on it yet even to clean up the dog doo.

There is a window of a couple of days when the temperature is above freezing but before the buds start leafing out on our apple tree. That is when we do the smelly work of spraying our fruit trees with dormant oil and sulphur. We do this because the last few years we have had tent caterpillars as well as some fungus. The oil knocks down the over-wintering eggs and the sulphur takes care of the fungus. We also use this on

the ground around and on our viburnums, roses, and irises. In case you are wondering, dormant oil is approved in Peterborough for this purpose.

We leave our ornamental grasses up over the winter for the birds. There is a Miscanthus that has beautiful 7-foot plumes but soon they will have to go to make room for the new growth for this year. If we donít take the chain saw out and cut the whole mass near the ground now, it will become so entangled we wonít be able to separate it. We will be raking out the leaves that have become lodged in our perennials and pulling out or cutting any dead leaves from our hostas and other plants.

As the garden starts warming up, we will be looking for a little red beetle that looks like a stretch-limo ladybug with no spots. If we find him we squish him because, he will eat our lilies later this year.

Before the leaves come out on the trees, we do a bit of pruning. Clean and sharp tools will make this job easier. Do not prune maples and birches because they bleed. Spring bloomers like forsythia and lilacs should not be pruned until just after they flower. Cut out any damaged or dead wood because these are access points for disease and insects.

Every year we spread an inch or two of the City of Peterboroughís compost on our perennial beds. We are careful doing this, because we might have baby plants that could be smothered so we avoid some areas until we see what comes up. Compost will improve the structure of your soil.

Now is the time to clean out the pond and get it going again. If we leave stuff in the bottom it will rot and cause problems later.

We have a look at the grass for problems. Once it dries enough to walk on, it should be raked to remove excess thatch, leaves and debris. If there are bare patches, we seed. It is too early to cut yet. Since we cut frequently and left the clippings on the lawn last year, there should be no need for a chemical feeding. The worms will take the grass down and as long as it does not mat, the grass will be better for it. We will spread compost on it to feed the worms and they will do the aerating for us.

There is always some new project to get started on. Maybe you have decided to build a new arbour or path or there is a bed that has become overgrown and needs total renewal. Now is the time to get started on this because you will be busy later.

A couple of hours now will save time later but be careful out there! Donít overdo it!

Dianne and Gary Westlake are Master Gardeners, to have your garden questions answered call our hotline 705-741-4905 which starts in April or our website