‘In­vest­ing’ in your gar­den now pays off

The Sudbury Star - - LIFE - MARK and BEN CULLEN

Time to get se­ri­ous about pro­tect­ing your gar­den in­vest­ment. This is like mak­ing a de­posit in your RRSP: do it now and reap the re­wards later.

Put a wrap on your gar­den in No­vem­ber and you end up with a great look­ing gar­den come spring. Let us ex­plain: Lawn Fer­til­izer. The most im­por­tant ap­pli­ca­tion of the year is right now. When you ap­ply a slow re­lease ni­tro­gen, high potash for­mula like 12-0-18 to your lawn now, you beef up the root zone of the grass plants for bet­ter per­for­mance next spring. There are no short-term ben­e­fits in this. Your lawn won’t spring to life and give you great joy this fall. In­stead, your lawn will be much less sus­cep­ti­ble to snow mould, mildew and, more to the point, it will bounce back with vigor come spring.

Clean the cut­ting deck of your lawn mower, spray oil on it and dis­con­nect the spark plug. Add sta­bi­lizer in the gas tank or empty it.

Peren­ni­als. No win­ter­iz­ing nec­es­sary. But this is your last chance to dig and di­vide all ma­ture peren­ni­als and move the di­vi­sions around your gar­den. Or give them away.

Fruit trees. The deeper the snow, the more sus­cep­ti­ble young fruit trees and crabap­ple trees are to rab­bit and mice dam­age. Put a plas­tic, spi­ral col­lar on each tree un­til it is about five years old or has ma­tured to about six cen­time­tres in di­am­e­ter mea­sured from 20 cm above ground. A ma­ture fruit tree has tough bark that does not in­ter­est hun­gry ro­dents.

Cedars, up­right ju­nipers and Yew hedges. Wrap in a layer of burlap to pre­vent wind dam­age from top to bot­tom. Se­cure with gar­den twine. Wrap a sec­ond layer of burlap to pre­vent sun dam­age, which usu­ally oc­curs in late win­ter/early spring when the sun re­flects off the snow. Mark did not wrap a new yew hedge last win­ter and he had to look at burnt fo­liage all sea­son. We learn from our mis­takes (and lazi­ness).

Mound roses. Many roses ben­e­fit from mound­ing soil about 60 cm up the main canes of the plant this time of year. Fresh triple mix or gar­den soil in­su­lates the green canes from the freeze/thaw cy­cles of the win­ter which can wreak havoc on hy­brid teas, flori­bun­das, gran­di­flo­ras and minia­ture roses. Shrub roses and some of the new Pave­ment roses are win­ter hardy and do not need cod­dling.

Wa­ter Deeply. Wet roots are well-win­ter­ized. The ex­tremely dry win­ter air sucks mois­ture from more than your lips. It can de­hy­drate the root zone of your gar­den plants, es­pe­cially those lo­cated un­der the pro­tec­tion of your roof sof­fit and eave. Let your gar­den hose drip wa­ter around each plant un­til you are cer­tain that the root zone is well hy­drated. Turn off your out­door faucets from the in­door con­trol.

Con­tain­ers. Empty con­tain­ers of ex­ist­ing soil by adding it to your gar­den. If you live in an apart­ment or condo, give the soil to a friend who has a gar­den. It is good stuff, just not good enough to use again next year in a con­tainer. Re­place with qual­ity con­tainer mix in the spring. In the mean time, turn each pot up side down to avoid crack­ing in the cold win­ter or find an en­closed place to store them.

Leaves. We don’t rake leaves into craft pa­per bags and put them out to the curb for the city to take away any­more. Now, we rake leaves onto our gar­den and let the worms take them down into the sub­soil where they are con­verted into ni­tro­gen-rich earth worm cast­ings. If you have a lot of leaves, run your lawn mower over them at its’ high­est set­ting and rake ex­cess mulched leaves onto the gar­den. If you have a big gar­den, steal the leaves that your old-fash­ioned neigh­bours put out for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to pick up. They will never no­tice and if they do, they won’t care.

Bring in your gar­den hose and any gar­den stat­u­ary and bird baths that might risk crack­ing in the frost.


Mark Cullen is an ex­pert gar­dener, author, broad­caster, tree ad­vo­cate and Mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-gen­er­a­tion ur­ban gar­dener and grad­u­ate of Univer­sity of Guelph and Dal­housie Univer­sity in Hal­i­fax. Fol­low them at markcullen.com, @markcul­len­gar­den­ing, on Face­book and bi-weekly on Global TV’s Na­tional Morn­ing Show.


The most im­por­tant ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­til­izer for the year is right now. When you ap­ply a slow re­lease ni­tro­gen, high potash for­mula like 12-0-18 to your lawn now, you beef up the root zone of the grass plants for bet­ter per­for­mance next spring.

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