This rainy weather is good for ducks (as my mother used to say) or for overseeding your lawn. Weed and feed is also best applied in cool, wet weather, but not at the same time as the seed.
There are a few new products on the market to fix bare patches too, 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 mixtures of composed/amended soil, seed and fertilizer. They do not contain a weed-killing ingredient…
If your lawn is patchy (bare spots and grassy spots with some weeds) try the mixed product on a raked lawn. Although there are several “weed and feed” products out there, I prefer to feed first, then weed, otherwise I tend to feed the weeds,
Another garden job for cool, wet, spring weather is fertilizing your trees. I have three evergreen trees I planted as tiny seedlings when each of my three sons was born. They were planted in my backyard, but as they reached about four feet in height, I asked the man that owns the building behind us if I could plant them in his yard. He agreed, so now I get the privacy, but still have space for a garden in my yard…
To fertilize my trees I use spikes that get pounded into the ground around the tree’s dripline. One spike for each 2 inch of tree diameter. There are many varieties on the market, choose the proper spike for the tree(s) you want to feed…
As the weather here is going be cool and rainy for a few more days, too muddy for work in my clients’ gardens, I should be able to get these chores done at home.
Last weekend it was out with the old, dead trees and in with the new seedlings on our cottage lot. This past summer we noticed that one of our huge maple trees had died, presumably due to the drought conditions we experienced this year, as it looked fine in the spring. Several smaller trees around it were looking like they were on their way out too, so all needed to be removed before they toppled over during a storm onto the nearby hydro lines.
The dead trees were in an area between our cottage and the road providing a natural privacy screen for many years. You can tell by the size of the trunk remaining that the maple was very old. We replaced the old trees with new evergreen seedlings that had sprouted up elsewhere on our property. They appear to be fast growing, so hopefully the bare looking area will fill in quickly.
In drought conditions like we have been experiencing here in the Ottawa (and most of Ontario) area, it is important that you know how and when to water your garden and lawns if you feel you must do so.
water plants in your garden at ground level, at the base of the plants. Don’t spray the leaves of plants. The hot sun will burn the wet foliage. (see pictures below)
water early in the morning or just before sunset so the water does not evaporate as quickly as it leaves your hose.
water well less frequently. A long soak every few days is much better than a quick daily spray. This encourages deep roots for your plants (and lawns too)
don’t forget to water your trees too. Let water drip from a hose at the base of the tree for an hour when no rainfall is received for 4 or 5 hot days.
remember, lawns will recover, but many plants and trees will not
On a recent trip along the 401 between Ottawa and Kingston in Eastern Ontario, I could not help but notice the toll that the drought conditions have taken on the trees. Usually beautiful, lush green against the magnificent limestone rock cuts, many of the deciduous trees are currently a toasted, brown color. The rocks absorb the heat from the sun making the high temperatures that much more dangerous for the trees. The rocky landscape is not able to retain the limited moisture we have had from rain…
Even though this was mid-August, it looked more like October when the leaves have changed color and are about to fall. Although we have had more rain this past week, I don’t think these poor trees will recover.
While my turkey was cooking this afternoon, I took the opportunity to get outside in the beautiful sunshine we are enjoying this weekend. Most of my yard is bare with just a few patches of snow left. I saw a few buds and stems of perennials basking in the sunshine too…
My pond is still frozen with the plants around it covered in snow…
A quick peek at my gardens turned into a chance to trim back some ornamental grasses that I left over the winter…
These ornamental grasses are best trimmed right now when they start to show some new growth. Another garden chore that can be done very early is the trimming of any dead, crossing or undesirable branches on your trees. It is much easier to do now than when the leaves emerge as you can see the shape of the tree better.
The rest of the plants are best left alone for a while yet…
The rain in the weather forecast for the next 10 days here in Ottawa brings the saying “April showers bring May flowers” to mind. The rain showers will water the spring bulbs and perennials, encouraging their bloom. A few days of rain makes the lawns so much greener too. All the rain showers and cool weather forecasted this spring is also good for planting grass seed or fertilizing your lawn and trees.
There are many products available for spring treatment, some with just seed, some with just fertilizer, and some that combine seed and fertilizer…
combination of grass seed, fertilizer and peat
pre-emergent treatment for crabgrass
fertilizer spikes for trees
Some combinations for your lawn even add peat which is beneficial in keeping the soil rich by absorbing moisture (first picture) These combination products can be a good thing for novice landscapers and home owners, as the research is done for you. The proper type of fertilizer and the amount to use is calculated for you.
Corn gluten (second picture) is a popular, organic, pre-emergent treatment for crab grass. Pre-emergent means it should be applied before the crab grass seeds germinate (start to grow) very early in the spring, as soon as the snow is gone from the lawn. I use corn gluten on my lawn in the fall, after the first frost, but before the first snow fall. I have found this practice convenient (one less thing to do in the spring) and most effective against crabgrass.
Fertilizer spikes (third picture) are efficient ways to feed your trees. Make sure you choose the proper product package for your trees though. There are packages for evergreens (pine, spruce, cedar etc), ornamental trees (crab apple, lilacs etc) fruit trees (apple, plum etc) and other popular trees (maple, elm etc) Simply pound the spikes in the ground around the perimeter of your tree’s dripline as specified in the package directions. Obviously, the larger the perimeter of your tree’s dripline (the outer edge of branches), the more spikes you need. It is best and easiest to pound these spikes into the ground when the ground is wet and more rain showers are in the forecast.
Make the most of the forecasted rain; your lawn and trees will thank you!
Sometimes I advise clients to use mulch in their gardens, and sometimes I advise them not to, but most often I advise them to use it wisely. Why? Because many times mulch is used for the wrong reasons and incorrectly, causing more harm than good…
Mulch is beneficial for keeping moisture in and keeping weed levels down, but it must be applied properly. Applied incorrectly, too thick or too close to plants, it can cause rot, mildew/mold and eventually the demise of your perennials, shrubs and even large trees.
Mulch should not be piled right up to the base or stalk/stem of your plants. When applying mulch to your gardens you should leave a space of at least 1 inch (so the soil shows) between the base or stalk/stem/trunk of your plant or tree and the mulch. After a heavy rain and in the spring after snow has moved the mulch, you should reestablish this space as soon as possible, especially for young plants that will rot quickly if the mulch is left too close to the stems.
Mulch applied too thickly around the base of a tree will eventually kill the tree. The roots of all plants, including large trees, require oxygen, moisture and nutrients. If mulch is applied too thickly, these required items cannot reach the roots, causing starvation and death of the plant. This theory also applies to ornamental rocks and anything else piled around trees to minimize the growth of weeds and grass. These pictures show mulch piled much too thickly around the base of a mature tree(incorrect), and removed from the base and spread out (correct):
mulch applied too thickly (note the demarcation line on the trunk)
mulch removed from tree and spread out
Mulch will keep weed levels down, but it will not eliminate weeds altogether as many people are led to believe. Weed seeds blow in the wind and will settle in the mulch and germinate there too. The difference is, when you pull out a weed growing in mulch, it comes out much easier and more completely, with the root intact. If you do not remove the entire root of a weed it simply grows back, often very quickly.
Mulch applied in a thin layer (one inch thick is plenty) around a tree can be beneficial to keep weeds and grass roots from competing with the tree roots for oxygen, moisture and nutrients. Just remember, more is definitely NOT better!
Nothing, including grass, should be planted around a new tree for the first five years, allowing the tree roots to get established. After that, shallow rooted perennials or annuals work best as they do not force the tree roots to compete for required elements. A few examples of shallow rooted perennials are geraniums, sweet woodruffe and lamium. My personal favourite is the perennial geranium (very different than the red annual geraniums that I am not so fond of) because it tolerates almost full shade to almost full sun, and is the first plant to green up in the spring. Perennial geranium flowers can be white, pink, blue, purple and many shades in between, but are almost inconspicuous in many of the varieties; the foliage is the main attraction to me:
If you do decide to mulch your garden or use mulch under your trees, please use caution and apply it correctly so you do not do more damage than good…