Opening the Garden

Photo: A clump of common bleeding heart and a Japanese maple enjoy springs warm sunshine
Use grass seed and mulch now for a great-looking lawn and garden

For most of Canada, it’s time to give your garden a once-over before you get planting. Here’s my recipe for a great looking lawn & garden: 

  1. Over-seed your lawn with fresh grass seed. A key step in spring lawn care involves tackling the bare or weak spots in your lawn with a bag of triple mix, spread about 2 to 3 centimetres thick, raked smooth and topped with a layer of grass seed. Rake that smooth, step on it with flat-soled shoes to get it in firm contact with the soil, and water well. This will thicken those thin spots like nothing else.  
  2. Cut back perennials that remain standing from over the winter. Cut them right to the ground. Dig and divide the old ones that are too big for their space or are just not performing as they once did. Divide them and replant around your garden or give away to friends. This works really well with monarda, hosta, day lilies and the like. Leave the division of your peonies until mid September.  
  3. Spread compost one to two inches thick around perennials and shrubs in planting beds. If your garden soil is made up mostly of heavy clay add one-third sharp sand (not beach sand!) to the compost. Sharp sand, also known as builder’s sand, contains grains of various sizes. Turn the compost under using a garden fork (a fork disturbs the roots of established plants much less than that of a shovel or spade and is easier to push into your existing soil). Using the garden fork or the back of a shovel, slap the mixed soil/compost to get rid of large clods of earth: small ones will not matter. Your newly turned soil should be “open” enough for a garden trowel to easily push through.

Green gardener Mark Cullen is a radio and TV personality, author of 18 gardening books and answers thousands of questions at