Now’s the time for preliminary garden work

Sunshine and warm weather draw people outside. While the snow is melting, it’s not completely gone which, in March is a good thing. The snow will continue to insolate the plants when the temperature drops again.

Sunshine and warm weather draw people outside.

While the snow is melting, it’s not completely gone which, in March is a good thing. The snow will continue to insolate the plants when the temperature drops again.

Do not remove or trample snow on flowerbeds hoping for a faster spring because the insolating properties on the snow will be lost.

On the other hand, taking the time to trample the snow around new tree and shrub plantings will help keep the rodents from eating the tender bark. Animals will avoid areas where they have little or no protection against predators.

Now is a good time to prune deciduous trees. Start by removing any dead, diseased or broken branches. All cuts must be made to another branch or limb.

Stubs that are left will die and look unsightly.

Rotting stubs are openings that will allow in insects and diseases which will weaken the tree.

If large limbs must be removed do it in three cuts. The first is an undercut about six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) from the final cut. First cuts must be deep enough to sever the cambium layer from the rest of the tree. This important cut ensures that the bark will not tear and damage the tree with the second cut.

Cut number two is from the top down. Line it up to join in with the first cut.

With the weight on the limb gone it is easy to make a good, clean final cut that is flush with another large branch or the trunk of the tree.

Pollarding, cutting the tops off large trees and branches, is occasionally seen here but is very popular in Asian countries where it is often seen as an art form.

In reality the trees are weakened and need to be held up by braces and large poles.

A heavy Alberta snowfall would bring both the supports and the tree to the ground.

Good pruning practiced will keep the plants healthy.

As with shrubs, do not remove more than one-quarter of the tree in one year.

Shrubs can be pruned when the snow has melted from around the center of the plant. It is a matter of being able to see what needs to be removed. To keep a shrub healthy and vibrant old growth should be removed at ground level on a regular basis.

This will allow sunlight into the centre of the plant encouraging new growth.

Cutting back on outer growth will keep the plant the desired size.

Warning: pruning early blooming shrubs now will remove flowerbuds. For maximum blooms, prune early blooming shrubs after they have flowered.

Shrubs in this category include: lilacs, double-flowering plum, nanking cherry, forsythia, faphne and hardy azaleas.

Spring bulbs will soon be appearing in protected sunny locations. The plants, like gardeners, are gambling on good weather. These plants will poke their heads through the ground and stay dormant through cold days while growing on the warm ones.

Taking time to water the bulbs will ensure blooms are not lost due to lack of moisture.

At the same time water and wash all evergreens that are on the south or west side of a building. Giving extra moisture now will help them retain moisture in the drying sun.

Gardening can be very strenuous. If the winter was spent in inactive pursuits take advantage of the warm weather to get outside to walk.

Getting exercise now will make gardening easier and more enjoyable.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com

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