Spring flowers waiting to show off

Amanda Jess, The News
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NEW GLASGOW – Although it’s technically spring, crocuses and other spring flowers won’t be showing their petals until the snow melts.

John Carter unwraps the burlap protecting this tree-formed dappled willow from snowfall and deer outside his New Glasgow home. Already, the plant is showing good progression. Jennifer Vardy Little – The News

The prolonged winter may push the gardening season back, but it doesn’t hurt it.

John Carter, president of the New Glasgow and Area Highland Garden Club, took many preparations in winter to make sure his plants wouldn’t suffer.

He wrapped many of his trees in burlap to protect them from harsh winds.

“Sometimes you’ll notice cedars – one side of them will be brown … What happened to that side is it was getting too much wind, raw wind, in the winter. It robbed that leaf from the water inside so the plant actually burns,” he explained.

He also wraps his first year plants to ensure they are able to spread their roots within the soil.

The burlap not only protects it from weather conditions, but also from deer.

He noted that there’s two ways of using burlap. Gardeners can either wrap up a plant tightly, or use three to four wooden stakes around the plant and wrap around the stakes.

He says the agricultural college recommends using stakes to allow the plant to breathe.

However, he says gardeners should do what works for them.

“If you have good plants, everything is working well, and you’re not doing a thing that I suggested, don’t change,” he said. “Leave it the way you’re doing it because you’re having success.”

Another preparation Carter takes in the fall for spring is ensuring he clears dead leaves before the snow comes. Raking them in the spring can cause damage.

“After you rake them, you can actually break off the tips of the new plants that have started.”

It can also encourage fungus growth, he said, which attracts insects.

When spring rolls around, Carter’s first step is to look at the soil.

Frost can leave plants heaving out of the ground, when they should be well-buried, he said.

“You may also have areas of low that need to be fixed up. You want your soil to be level,” he said.

If the soil is heavy, he suggests amending it with things like peat moss or fish meal, easily accessed at garden centers.

Typically, the next step would be to fertilize. If using a chemical fertilizer, Carter recommends doing it by hand and mixing it well, making sure it doesn’t go too deep and burn roots.

Compost also works well, he says, and is cost-efficient.

On top of the humus, the end result of composting matter, Carter adds mulch to prevent weeds from coming through.

“It also looks good. It really gives a professional look to the garden.”

He waits for dry days before he begins digging in the garden.

When working with wet soil, it can become hard and chunky, Carter said, when it should be broken up into fine pieces.

Once spring rolls around in this area, plants like snowdrops, hyacinth and crocuses will bloom, followed by the mid season bulbs such as daffodils and tulips.

Shrubs such as honeysuckle and potentilla will began leafing, and forsythia bushes will flower.

These are all plants approved for hardiness zone 5b, a cooler climate.

One of the most important things to keep in mind, Carter said, is that the plants are in the right place.

He does his homework to figure out where each plant should go on his property.

“If it dies on the north corner, it’s because it should probably be in the south corner. You have to figure out where it grows in nature.”

No matter what method a gardener uses, the weather is a key factor. Winter may not hurt the bulbs before spring arrives, but if winter transitions straight into summer, many of the varieties won’t grow as well.

 

Amanda.jess@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda

 

Organizations: Area Highland Garden Club

Geographic location: New Glasgow

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