Spring Is Just Around The Corner

It’s winter. It’s cold outside. Everything is covered in snow. Good News! Now is the perfect time to start thinking about — and preparing for — your spring garden.

While your activities outside may be limited, there’s much you can do inside to make the coming months more fruitful.

For starters, grab a pencil and paper and sketch out any changes you’d like to make to your garden once the snow clears.

Where will you put the new arbor you’ve been thinking about? Is it time for a new and artistic pruning of the hedges? What about a new walkway of flagstones interspersed with thyme? Will you be moving any flower or herb beds? Will you need new annuals or perennials? Would you like a new herb garden? Some, like basil and parsley make tasty additions to your pantry. Others, like sweet woodruff are more decorative and can be a subtle but significant facet of your landscaping plans. Still others, like anise-hyssop and sage attract butterflies, and bergamot may attract hummingbirds.

When you put all your gardening tools away at the end of autumn, you made sure to clean and oil them, right? If not, now would be a good time to do so, along with sharpening any dull blades and fixing or replacing anything that’s broken.

Your inside houseplants still need plenty of attention. Perhaps, because of the shorter winter days, they need more light and should be moved. Over time the soil of potted plants loses nutrients and may suffer from a mineral build-up from hard water. Now would be a good time to re-pot them.

While you’re inside taking care of your houseplants, consider starting seedlings to be planted outside in the spring. Besides being fun and educational, it can save you the expense of purchasing plants in the spring. Thyme can take three to four weeks to germinate and shouldn’t be transplanted until two sets of true leaves appear. Then the plant still needs to be acclimatized over a period of a week. Now would be a good time to prepare the soil, containers, and lighting you’ll need, as well as to purchase the seeds themselves.

Speaking of seeds, start perusing seed catalogues and gardening magazines. You’ll find excellent inspiration for your own garden designs, as well as news about new tools and techniques. Botanists and horticulturists are always producing new hybrids to tickle your senses.

On days when it’s not too cold, consider getting out and setting up a bird feeder. Different seeds attract different birds: Niger seed for goldfinches, house

and purple finches, and pine siskins; black oil sunflower seed for just about every other type of bird. It’s a good economical general feed. For a high energy feed for winter, give them suet or peanut butter. Also, think about a heated birdbath. Water is a necessity!

Be sure to shake excess snow off the branches of small trees, particularly evergreens. The excessive weight may break tender branches or even topple the tree. It’s still not too late to wrap vulnerable evergreens with burlap.

Once you’ve done everything you can inside and outside, it’s time to get away to a gardening show. Each year, Landscape Ontario and The Garden Club of Toronto produce Canada Blooms, a veritable oasis for eager gardeners where you’ll find hundreds of exhibits including lavish custom designed gardens, water falls, seminars, demonstrations, and workshops. Past Canada Blooms have even included real weddings with the public invited as guests.

No matter what the weather’s like, there’s always plenty to do for the serious professional and the amateur hobbyist alike. So prepare now for a springtime garden that will be a haven for both yourself and the friendly neighborhood wildlife.

Jules Smith is the principal of LightningStrike Studios, a professional business and technical writing firm.