Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Late Winter, Early Spring Garden Chores

photo credit

Spring is here according to our calendars and the nice weather, although I’ve heard rumours the colder stuff will return for a bit soon. There are many garden or yard chores that should be done this time of year and not put off until the last frost date.

Late winter is considered to be approximately 6 weeks before the beginning of the spring thaw, so will depend on where you live. If you are not sure, count backwards from your area’s last frost date. To me (in zone 4 or 5) this means early April is (usually) late winter or early spring. I can always hope earlier.

It is much easier to see the “bone structure” of your trees before they leaf out, so pruning shade trees like oak and maples now, while they are still dormant, is perfect timing.

Pruning is done for several reasons, even cosmetic ones.

Dead, Broken, Diseased or Crossing Branches

Dead, broken, diseased or crossing/rubbing branches can be cut back at any time during the year. This applies to trees and shrubs. Cut right to the next branch, without leaving a stub.

In the case of crossing or rubbing branches, decide which of the crossing branches lends best to the overall shape of the tree or shrub and remove the other. Keep in mind branches should grow upwards and outwards for optimal shape.

Heavy snow falls and winter winds can snap even the healthiest of branches. These broken branches should be removed for aesthetic purposes as well as for the continued health of the tree or shrub.

Although it may be difficult to determine if branches are dead or diseased yet, you can mark any suspicious ones for pruning later if this is the case. There is no wrong time to remove dead or diseased branches.

Shaping or Rejuvenating

Trees and shrubs always look nicer and tidier when shaped properly and not overgrown. Now is the time to do this, before new growth begins blurring the shape. This is especially true if you have a hard time cutting out perfectly healthy branches.

Pruning to enhance the shape will encourage and stimulate new growth in spring, which is when you want to encourage new growth. Pruning in fall however, encourages growth when future cold weather could kill it off.

Overgrown shrubs and trees also benefit from drastic rejuvenating this time of year. Again, this is because the new growth that will be stimulated has a better chance of survival heading into spring rather than winter. I have had particular success drastically cutting back overgrown dappled willows and forsythia in my business. Even though forsythia is on the list of shrubs not to trim back early, this one was so overgrown my client just wanted it reduced in size, willing to sacrifice the blooms that year.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs to Prune now

If removing the lower branches of evergreens in your landscape is something you have been considering, now is the time to do so. This is a great way to drastically change your landscape and even improve the condition of your lawn that tries to grow under them.

Boxwoods, yews, holly and other evergreen shrubs should be trimmed now, while dormant, and before new growth appears.

Spruce and firs can be trimmed back now, but pruning pines should wait until June or July, after their first growth of what are called candles (new shoots at the tips). No earlier and no later. With pines, prune (delay growth) by cutting back the candles by half or remove dead, diseased, broken (or unwanted lower) branches to their main stem.

Shrubs or Trees You Should NOT Prune Now

There are exceptions to the “most trees and shrubs” that benefit from spring pruning. These would be the ones that flower early and prefer pruning after they flower. They include:

  • Lilac
  • forsythia
  • bridle wreath spirea
  • mophead and oakleaf hydrangea
  • spring blooming clematis
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolia
  • wisteria
  • flowering almond
  • mock orange
  • weigela
  • nine barks
  • viburnum
  • witch hazel
  • spring flowering trees like plum, cherry, pear or dogwood

The general rule of thumb is “if it blooms before June, prune after flowering. If it blooms after June, prune in spring.” That is because spring bloomers do so on older (last year’s) wood, while later flowers come from new (spring generated) wood.

Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses and Perennials

If you left your ornamental grasses to sway in the winter winds, cut them back as soon as you can get to them, even if you have to wade through some lingering snow. Ornamental grasses should be cut back to four to six inches from the ground. It is much easier to do this now than to wait until new growth starts when you will have to pick the dead and crispy brown stalks from the tender new green shoots. I did mine a few weeks ago when I was itching to do something garden related.

This applies to other perennials you left over the winter. Bird lovers often leave seed heads and pods for their fine feathered friends to snack on. Some leave perennial stalks for their beauty when covered in snow or some variation in an otherwise bleak-looking winter garden. For whatever reason you have left yours intact, now is the time to cut (snap off) the brown and crispy stalks down to ground level.

Conclusions

For more ideas on what you can tackle in your garden this early, check out last year’s post at this time of year.

I’ve got my ornamental grasses cut back already and my lawn raked and seeded, with edging next on my agenda. Garden cleanups will have to wait a few more weeks.

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca

Chewed bark on shrubs and trees spells trouble

Have you noticed chewed bark on the branches of your shrubs and trees this spring? That’s not good and signifies that they are in trouble. Those adorable rabbits, majestic deer and their furry friends can cause lots of damage to your garden plantings. Even death.

If the tree or shrub has the bark chewed all the way around the branches or trunk, the plant will most likely not survive. However, if only a portion of the trunk or branch circumference reveals chewed bark, you may be able to salvage the plant. Cut the plant back severely, almost to ground level and wait.

For example, this shrub rose had lots of bark missing from its lower branches, but there were patches of healthy bark still intact…

chewed bark
shrub rose with some chewed and some intact branches

To rectify the damage, I cut all branches back to 8 inches from the ground. Three weeks later, this is the result. Isn’t nature amazing?

chewed bark
rejuvenated shrub rose

Other similarly damaged shrubs I encountered in this same client’s garden were this weigela and ninebark. The stems of the weigela were almost totally stripped of their bark, you can see how white the stubs are. I am pleasantly surprised to see they are both showing signs of recovery:

chewed bark
weigela recovering from chewed bark
chewed bark
recovering ninebark

If you live in a rural area where furry critters visit your garden searching for food in the winter, consider wrapping the tasty trunks and stems of your plants next fall, before the snow falls. There are many products available for this purpose.

You don’t have much to lose if your shrubs or trees have suffered a similar fate this past winter. Cut them back and cross your fingers!

Posted in current events, gardening, lorieb.com, nature

Purple jacaranda trees

These jacaranda trees, currently in bloom in southern Australia, are beautiful!  These pictures show how these spectacular trees line the streets in Adelaide…

 

The pictures remind me of our crab apple trees in the spring and our maple trees in the fall here in Canada.  The striking purple color of the jacaranda trees grabbed my attention of course because GRAY IS NOT MY COLOR;  I am a blatant  PURPLEHOLIC.

 

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, Ottawa, weather

Great weather for ducks, or for overseeding and fertilizing your lawn and trees

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.  They are 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 mixtures of composed/amended soil, seed and fertilizer.  If your lawn is patchy with bare, grassy, and weedy spots, try one of the mixed products. I have had success with both of these.  They do not contain a weed-killing ingredient, so you will have to treat the weeds six weeks later.

 

There are several “weed and feed” products out there.  On established (not patchy) lawns I prefer to weed first, then feed.  Otherwise, I tend to feed the weeds.

 

Another 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 originally planted in my backyard.  As they reached about four feet in height, I asked the owner of 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…

20170501_172830

 

To fertilize my trees I use spikes that get pounded into the ground around the tree’s dripline.  One spike contains enough fertilizer for each 2 inch of tree diameter.   There are many varieties on the market. Be sure to choose the proper spike for the tree(s) you want to feed.

 

The weather here is going be cool and rainy for a few more days. With it too muddy for work in my clients’ gardens, I will get these chores done at home.  If it is cool and rainy where you are, use this weather to get your overseeding and fertilizing done.

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, ontario, Ottawa, weather

Great weather for ducks (or for overseeding and fertilizing your lawn and trees)

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…

20170501_172830

 

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.

Posted in cottage life, lorieb.com, nature, weather

Out with the old and in with the new

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.

 

 

Posted in loreeebee.ca, Ottawa, weather

How and when to water your garden and lawn

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

Posted in lorieb.com, nature, weather

Drought conditions in Eastern Ontario

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.

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, weather

Spring is here, I hope

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…

pond

 

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…

 

 

Posted in current events, gardening, weather

April showers bring May flowers; the advantages of spring rain

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.

Some combinations for your lawn even add peat which is beneficial in keeping the soil rich by absorbing moisture.  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 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 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!