Sunnybank’s secret garden is host to a flurry of activity these days. Most of the really hard work is done. (Every bed has been meticulously cleaned of leaves and dead twiglets and branches, and all perennials inspected.) I still need to turn over the winter-compacted soil, mix in a bit of manure, and then wait until June, when it’s safe to add interesting tropical and annual plants. Perennials, appreciating the loosened soil, will stretch their roots more easily and grow with enthusiasm.
Oh- and today I can mow the grass. Somehow, after that’s done, I feel that the gardening season is launched. I’ll cut it long, to 3 inches, to inhibit weeds and add to the sense of lushness. That means cutting it again soon, but who doesn’t need the exercise?
Here are a few rules I follow:
1. Keep string trimmers (strimmers) well away from tree trunks. I see whole clumps of young, sad trees in parks that won’t make it to adulthood because their maimed bases are re-whipped every week by those handy, but lethal machines. It will take a few years, but they’re doomed. Ditto for adult trees. Nylon line moving at warp speed is deadly to bark.
2. Always set shovels and iron rakes face down on the ground after use. This prevents an absent-minded gardener from trodding on the blade, then getting instantly brained by the long handle. That horror can knock a person out, or worse.
3. Wear steel-lined boots/shoes to prevent toe amputation when chopping roots vigorously with a shovel.
4. Never plant annuals until well into June. Late frosts will kill every one. My personal ‘safe-to-plant’ date is June 5.
5. Never plant a flower closer than 18 inches from a home’s foundation.
6. Don’t trod on turned soil. Ever. Instead, place stepping stones where needed, and insure that they’re large enough to stand on, and work from, comfortably. I place a potted annual on those stones that are closer to the front of beds, to make their presence less obvious. A pot can be temporarily shifted when I want access to the back or middle of a bed.
7. I glance at the big pegboard in my workshop. If a tool isn’t covering its own white outline when I’m done gardening, I’ll know I’ve left it outside. (Or, you could dab a tool’s handle with shocking paint to make it much easier to spot amongst the greenery and garden debris.)
8. Now, while shrubs and trees are still semi-naked, look at their branches closely. Cut away all that are touching a neighbor, or rubbing against another, or will be, soon. Potential damage is easy to note now. But hurry; leaves hide what is happening.
9. Remove all tree bark wraps. If these rabbit-gnawing preventives are left on post winter, they’ll create ‘soggy bark syndrome.’ The bark will pine for air and light. Eventually bugs hiding in its wrapped spring-moist interior will multiply, further weakening the plant.
10. Now’s the time to pull out sneaky grass blades that have invaded beds (after gardeners seed their lawns in fall). Left alone, rogue grass will blur the clean lines of proper plants, and begin to vigorously spread. Yanking them after they’ve established themselves amidst the flowers is much more difficult.
Reviewing these ten personal rules every spring adds to my garden’s beauty, and saves money, toes and time.