4 steps to the best home garden ever Image

4 steps to the best home garden ever

By Mark Cullen on Apr 20, 2017

Producing the very best garden calls for a plan. Now is the time of year to take action. These are my top tips for creating your best home garden ever!

1) Prune

Mark Cullen's tips for the best home garden

This is a great time of year to prune most any fruiting trees, especially apples, peaches, apricots and nectarines. The idea is to open up their structure by removing a portion of the branches that grow in the interior of the tree. Let the sun shine on the fruit as it ripens and remove some of the top growth, allowing wind to whistle through. Sunshine and breezes encourage evenly ripened fruit and discourage any diseases and insects.

Leave your pear tree unless it is unruly or getting in your way. They generally don’t like being pruned. This is a good time of year to prune your cedar hedge and junipers, too.  Shaping them now produces a soft, finished look in a month or two as new growth appears.

2) Fertilize your lawn

Mark Cullen's tips for the best home garden

Think of a bear venturing out of a cave after a long winter nap. The first thing she is going to want is a square meal: after all, the winter robbed her of the nutrients she stored up in her belly last fall.

Your lawn stored up nutrients at its root zone last fall, which is why it explodes out of the soil like a rocket 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 greener lawn. 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, a type of iron that is available in a form that grass plants can readily absorb.  

This is an excellent time of year to thicken your lawn by spreading fresh grass seed over thin areas. Put down 2 or 3 cm of lawn soil first, broadcast the seed evenly by hand, rake smooth, and step on it to get the seed in firm contact with the soil. Water regularly until germination occurs. And remember that the best quality grass seed does not germinate for 2 to 3 weeks: slow is good.  

3) Soil enhancement

Mark Cullen's tips for the best home garden

The nutrients in your garden were used up, to a large extent, by last year’s plants. This is the best time of year to replenish those nutrients by adding generous quantities of composted manure. For the first time we are able to buy Bio Max manure that is certified by the Compost Council of Canada with a ‘Compost Quality Assurance’ logo on the bag. This means that the compost is clean, naturally rich and provides peace of mind to the user.     

April is the time to dig generous quantities of composted cattle or sheep manure into your garden beds. How much? I spread 20 kg over a square meter of soil and turn it under or ‘work it in’ with a cultivator or garden fork or leave it and let the earthworms pull it down.  

4) Refill containers

Mark Cullen's tips for the best home garden

Last year’s soil should be removed and placed on the garden. Scrape out the inside of each pot with a stiff brush to remove the soil that is caked on and replace with fresh container mix. Be sure to buy quality stuff as you do get what you pay for with this product.  

Check out the plants that are available at your local garden retailer this time of year. It might surprise you to find greenhouse-fresh pansies, violas, ranunculus and garden herbs available for sale. They look good and can be planted in containers that are located in sheltered locations, like under an awning or near the front door.

Finally, sit, enjoy the birds, feed them, water them, breathe deeply and dream of the next eight glorious months in your Canadian garden. You’ve earned it.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, Member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden' published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook.

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