Flower Bed Tasks This Time of Year: From a Vegetable Gardener

Every time it rains I find myself thinking “Wow, yesterday would have been a great day to stick some seeds in the ground.”   One of my favourite garden experts Ed Lawrence (CBC Ontario Today) has said that “The right time to prune is when you’re holding the pruners.” Which brought me such relief when my partner finally got out the saw to prune the lilac early spring – exactly when you’re not supposed to prune lilacs – and I said “Well that would be just lovely honey”.

So I will put a spin on Ed’s advice and say that the best time to plant seeds is when they are in your hand every week AND it’s the right time for that seed. Kind of.  Don’t go sticking cucumber seeds in the ground just yet.  Sigh.  One day I’ll be as good as Ed.

I’ve seen this chart year after year and never really trusted it…but upon deeper examination it’s actually pretty good: http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/ON/Collingwood 

While I focus on helping you grow great veggies, many of us have, at one point in time, been lured into flower and perennial gardens.  Here are some spring gardening reminders for your flower beds from one vegetable gardener to another:

  1. Prune back your lavender, butterfly bush and hydrangeas. I do and it works. That is the only research I have done on this topic.
  2. Sure, you can dead head if you want, but if the flower stalks are toppled over and pretty much flattened I would use my time to pull out surrounding weeds.
  3. Don’t rake away all the brown plant material and leaves…unless you like weeds.  Then by all means expose that soil and make it look “tidy”.  But leaves = free mulch.  Why not mulch over top of the leaves?  But don’t your plants need air, don’t you need to let the soil breathe and loosen it up?  I don’t know. Are you sure?  Have you googled that?
  4. Eat some random spring plants like:
    1. Autumn Joy Sedum, those little green florets are juicy and tasty in salads.
    2. Sorrel. It’s give me a lemon face every time. It will be big and shoot up flowers sooner than the flea beetles come out.
    3. Dandelions – We’ve all seen enough articles about “Eating your Weeds” by now and this one is always in there.
    4. Ramps – They aren’t up yet….but they will be soon!  Make sure you take all of the wild leeks out of the forest….oh wait….no that’s garlic mustard.
    5. Garlic Mustard – it’s everywhere and actually pretty yummy in salads or steamed.  Take the whole friggin plant out, and all of it’s friends and family near by.  It’s a European Invasive.  I think my partner has called me that before.  
    6. Hosta Shoots – I haven’t done it yet, but Ben Ceasar, now a local celebrity, says you should steam them.
    7. Stinging Nettle –  There must be a Greek God who is based on this plant.  Terrifying but so healthy.  Put on a good pair of gloves (The hazmat gloves that I have are slightly overkill) and harvest the little stingers’ leaves.  Once steamed the sting is gone.  I have made it this far.  I can’t bring myself to eat it without some serious fear and eating that way can’t be good.
  5. Hack your shasta daisies and black eyed susans’ into more reasonably sized chunks and either make another couple stands of them (the rule of 3 is handy here), throw them in your neighbour’s garden, or in a pot at the curb with a “free” sign.
  6. Cut back woody Raspberry canes
  7. Smother grass for future garden beds – I’m starting to lay cardboard, scrap plywood, mulch etc. over grass that I want to be a future garden bed or just a pile of mulch.
  8. Prune apple/pear trees.  Well maybe this was best a week or 2 ago but I’ve seen the orchardists doing it still.  There are probably a host of additional fruiting bushes/trees that you could prune at this time also.
  9. Forsythia – These are the beautiful yellow flowering wood shrubs that are spectacular at this time of year. The secret is to prune right after it flowers because it only flowers on new wood.  My neighbours certainly haven’t figured it out, but man are their shasta daisies looking great.
  10. Seed some annuals.  I scattered some poppy seeds.  Because every garden needs opium.


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