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First Bud of Spring – Apr/May2016

First Bud of Spring - Apr/May2016

A bountiful garden is the result of proper preparation

To achieve the great garden you dreamt of through the winter, my number one tip is prepare your soil well.


Ninety per cent of the success in the garden is the result of good soil prep. Your soil should be loose and friable with the ability to drain freely. Otherwise, I recommend that you add generous quantities of organic compost. By generous quantities I suggest adding four to six centimetres (two to three inches) of compost or triple mix to the surface of your garden beds.

Healthy, fertile soil results in vibrant blooms, verdant foliage and abundant fruits and vegetables, and eliminates the need for pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Well-fed soil breeds strong, disease-tolerant plants. Insects are less prone to feed on healthy plants as the natural defenses of the plant are working at their optimum.


Raise your lawn mower cutting height to five to seven centimetres (two to three inches). Longer grass has deeper roots. It also controls weeds by crowding them out, and protects grass roots from drying out. The best method of growing a healthy, weed-free lawn is a thick, healthy grass that shades out weeds and crabgrass, eliminating the need for herbicides.

1 Use a spring-tined rake to remove any debris, dead grass, leaves, etc. from the lawn. Add these to your compost pile.

2 Spread a two-to-four centimetre layer of triple mix over the lawn, concentrating on depressions and thin areas. Sow a quality grass seed at a rate of one kilogram for every 80m². I cannot emphasize enough the need to buy good quality seed… the contents in the bag represent the future pedigree of your lawn.

3 Keep the area watered and evenly moist until the grass seed germinates.

4 If your lawn is in good shape, simply repair any bare spots and fertilize with a quality lawn fertilizer with slow release nitrogen and chelated iron. I recommend Golfgreen Iron plus: the most sophisticated formula in the business. This will last for up to 10 weeks—no need to repeat application until late spring or early summer. Repeat application three or four times this season for best results.


I encourage you to think of ways to reduce your water consumption. Saving water is not only the environmentally responsible thing to do, it saves you time and allows you to enjoy more time away from the garden without worrying about its need for water.

1 Divert downspouts into rain barrels and collect free, oxygen-rich, warm water for gardens and containers. All plants love it and respond better to rain water than the cold water from the end of a hose.

2 I recommend a five-centimetre (two-inch) layer of shredded cedar bark mulch throughout perennial and shrub beds. A generous layer of mulch insulates the soil from the drying effect of the sun and wind. You will reduce watering by up to 70 per cent as a result and weeding by up to 90 per cent the first year.

3 Apply water early in the morning when less moisture will be lost to evaporation. My rule of thumb for watering both gardens and lawns is to water deeply, usually no more than once a week. Infrequent but generous watering forces the roots of plants to grow deeper in search of moisture, without starving them for water. Deep roots mean that plants can better withstand short periods of drought.

A garden that does not demand a lot of water also means that it will not demand a lot of time. Properly thought-out and executed, a “low-water garden” may be the closest thing that you will get to a “low-maintenance” garden.

Take time to enjoy your gardening experience. It is, after all, spring and Canadians have waited long enough for it.

Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is the Lawn and Garden Expert for Home Hardware. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at