• April: Compost

    If your compost pile has thawed by the beginning of the month, now’s the time to give it a good stirring.At the end of the month, when the weather has improved and the garden is dry enough to work in, add a 1-2 inch layer of  well composted material (sweet smelling, crumbly and dark brown) to your garden beds, scratching it in lightly. Make sure that you are not putting against the stems or trunks of existing plants. When the earthworms wake up, they will pull that material further into the soil, helping you get ready for planting.

  • April: Cool Season Vegetables

    Vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, beets, peas and radishes all enjoy cool soil and can be usually be planted starting in mid to late April – check the long range forecast first in case some very cool weather is coming and planting needs to be delayed.  Lettuce and peas require the soil to be a little warmer than spinach, beets and radishes.  Watch the weather – if a frost is predicted, cover your plants to protect them.

  • April: Mulch

    If you mulch your gardens with shredded bark or leaves, you will find that the winter snow and rains have caused them to become compacted.   Once the soil has dried out somewhat, use a long handled cultivator to loosen or ‘fluff’ your mulch so that air and moisture can penetrate.  As you are doing so, you will be able to observe which areas will need to have the mulch topped up a little later in the season.

  • April: Flowers in the Vegetable Garden

    As you plan your vegetable garden, include some flowering herbs and annuals in it to encourage the beneficial bugs to visit your garden.  This is especially important if you plan to grow vegetables such as zucchini and cucumbers which have both male and female flowers and require visits from bees and other pollinators.

  • April: Trap Crops

    A trap crop is one that you plant to attract pests away from a crop that you want to protect.  For example, you could sow a row of white turnip in advance of sowing your lettuce crop.  The flea beetle will be attracted to the white turnip crop and leave your lettuce crop alone.  The key is to have the trap crop in place before the crop requiring protection is planted. The trap crop selected will depend on the pest and the crop requiring protection.

  • April: Spring Clean-up

    As lawns and gardens appear from under blankets of snow, all the winter debris is revealed.  The urge to get the rake out and clean-up is great.  But wait!  Allow the ground to de-frost and dry up before cleaning up.  Working on your lawn or garden while it is still wet will cause your soil to compact and make it much more difficult for your plants and grass to thrive in the coming season.

  • April: Cutting Back Perennials and Grasses

    Perennials have started to grow and the spring bulbs have broken through the soil. It is time to clean up the brown stalks of perennials and ornamental grasses left standing over the winter. Cut back down to the crowns of the perennials. Be careful not to damage the new growth. Ornamental grasses should be cut down as short as possible. Clear away the debris so that you are not leaving a home for unwanted pests. Don’t trample on the perennials that are slow to wake up and have not broken through the soil.

    Perovskia (Russian Sage) should be trimmed to approximately 10 cm. Deadwood should be removed from woody evergreen perennials such as the artemesias. These can be pruned for shape by cutting the stems back by approximately one half. Leave several leaf buds on each stem. Non-woody evergreen should be groomed as needed – sometimes it will be necessary to cut them back to the ground.

  • Late March: Don`t Work the Soil Yet

    A few days of unseasonably warm temperatures does not mean that summer has arrived. We live in Southern Ontario and weather can be variable. Before deciding on what gardening chores you can do now, check the long range forecast. Look at both the daytime and night time temperatures. Excessively low night time temperatures can slow or halt plant growth. Environment Canada estimates that the last frost date for Toronto is May 9, based on a 30 year average between 1960 and 1990.

    Your garden soil needs an opportunity to warm up and dry up before you start to work in it. Working soil that is too wet will result in compacted soil. Let your soil warm up before you plant, divide or move plants around. The exceptions are some of cool weather crops, such as spinach, that will happily germinate in cool soil.

  • March: Warning About Growing Potatoes at Home

    Now is the time home gardeners are planning their vegetable gardens and ordering seeds, and some may be considering growing potatoes this year. The Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture (OMAFRA) has some cautions about growing potatoes in urban home gardens.

    Their web site explains: “Late blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans is a devastating potato disease. Spores in the late blight fungus are spread by the wind and can travel long distances. Urban gardeners cannot access commercial crop protection materials that provide good control of this disease. Potatoes grown in urban areas are sources of late blight inoculum that can infect potato fields located as far as 200 km away.”

    For this reason, they strongly recommend NOT using saved potatoes or purchased eating potatoes. Instead, OMAFRA recommends only planting certified disease free potato seed from a reputable garden centre.

  • March: Calculating the Sowing Date

    Seed packages indicate the number of weeks needed to have a seedling ready for planting out.  Add on a week for ‘hardening off’ your seedlings.  To calculate the date for starting your seeds indoors, start with the date when you want to plant the seedlings outdoors and count backwards.  For example, to plant your snapdragons outdoors the week of May 27, you will need 10 weeks for growing the seedling and 1 week for hardening off – start them the week of March 4.