Lawn & Garden

Prepping Your Spring Garden

Mark Cullen


How would you like to grow your best garden ever this year? Bigger and more plentiful blooms, more fruit, less disease, greener blades … you name it.

Start with the best dirt. Over 90% of your success will hinge on soil quality. After removing the winter debris from the existing surface soil, I spread 2 to 3 centimeters of compost or composted cattle manure over my entire garden. Once spread, I leave it there for the earthworms to pull down into the soil. No need to ‘turn it under’ with a garden fork as many of the books will tell you to do. When you are shopping for cattle manure, be sure to look for the Compost Quality Alliance certification. It is guaranteed to be properly composted and contains only pure 100% compost.

Plant food. I don’t fertilize most of my plants throughout the year, as all of the nutrients they need are in the compost that I dig in so generously. When I plant a tomato, for instance, I put a bushel (about 4 shovels full) of compost and sharp sand in the hole. However, there are plants that require additional food despite my rich soil, like roses, for example, are heavy feeders. I fertilize mine with an all-season Feed and Forget product once, early in the season and that is it for the whole year. I add sulphur and fertilizer to my rhododendrons and hydrangeas, and evergreen food where coniferous plants are looking stressed and the foliage yellowing.

Fertilize containers. The space that your containerized plants have to grow in is limited by the size and shape of the container. With a limited mass of soil from which to pull nutrients, it is important that you augment it with fertilizer. I use a slow release product, similar to the rose food that I mentioned above. This once-and-done formula is labelled for use specifically in containers. I recommend it, as it reduces the fussing required with the water-soluble formulas and it really works well.

Fertilize with natural ingredients. There is a wide selection of naturally sourced plant fertilizers on the market. This is a reflection of our general interest in growing plants sustainably. Blood meal is high in nitrogen, which promotes a deep green colour and fast growth. Bone meal is naturally high in phosphorous, encouraging strong roots and blooms. Look for Green Earth and Natura brands for a full lineup of natural fertilizers with a wide range of applications.

Worm castings. This is soil-magic! I mix one-part worm castings with about 10 parts of quality, compost-rich soil when I plant containers and start seeds indoors and out. They are loaded with natural microbes and nutrients that benefit any plant that you grow. This is a cost-efficient investment in plant growth that you will be very happy with.

Fertilize your lawn. Your lawn stored up nutrients at its root zone last fall, which is why it explodes out of the soil with the warming temperatures and increased rainfall of spring. Soon, however, it outgrows the available nutrients in the soil and bingo, weeds compete their way into the lawn and insects are tempted by its weakened state.

None of this happens, to the same extent, when a quality fertilizer is applied early in spring. A product with slow-release nitrogen provides a safe, lasting green, as this is the one element that your lawn craves the most after a long winter. The addition of iron, at least one percent in the bag, is the key to a long lasting, fast green-up.

In the same way that iron provides your blood with its deep red colour, it keeps your lawn a deep shade of green. Be sure to use a quality lawn fertilizer that contains chelated iron, as it is available in a form that grass plants can readily absorb. There is a new form of iron on the market called ‘DDP’ which produces extraordinary results.

Golfgreen Iron Plus is the only fertilizer that I use on my lawn.

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