South Shore gardeners know well the challenges of this wet, grey season. Our gardens can be rather uninspiring at this time of year – often brown and mucky rather than green and lush. But don’t let the drab exterior fool you! Soil life is at work and your plants are waiting for spring to shoot up and greet the warm sun.
Early spring is the perfect time to get out into your garden and reconnect with the land. This work is important for our gardens and for us! We need fresh air, sunshine and the smell of soil to energize us for the growing season ahead. Read more about the benefits of nature for health and happiness here.
Not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered. Here are my top five early spring garden clean-up tasks:
1. Prune trees and shrubs. It’s best to prune large trees and shrubs during winter, before they break dormancy. In winter, sap descends to plant roots, reducing injury when we prune. Spring is also a good time to support any plants that were damaged in winter storms. The exception is any tree or shrub that flowers in early spring. For these wait until fall or until after they flower.
2. Work the soil and warm the soil. When gardening, I aim to disturb the soil as little as possible. This allows soil life to develop and maintains the soil structure and horizon. Sometimes, though, we need to turn our gardens for planting, aeration and weeding. Early spring is the best time to do these jobs, because soil life is primarily dormant until the growing season begins. This is also a good time to pull back mulch from your spring plants and annual beds to warm the soil, encouraging growth and establishment.
3. Clean up last year’s herbaceous plant growth. I choose to leave most dead plant matter in my garden over winter. I do this because it insulates the soil and soil life, protecting it from erosion and winter weather. Some plants, like grasses, still look nice throughout the winter, and should be cut to the ground in early spring to promote new growth (read more about caring for ornamental grasses here). Now is the time to clean-up that dead matter, composting what you can to add fertility to your garden later (learn composting basics here).
4. Plant cold-hardy annuals and cover crops. What can you plant at this time of year you ask? Cold-hardy greens and herbs of course! Try parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, mustards and lettuces. This is also a great time to sow a cover crop to precede a summer crop, adding fertility to the garden and attracting insect pollinators (learn more about pollinator-friendly gardening here). Pea-oat mix and buckwheat are good options. Simply broadcast them and dig them in a few weeks before you plant your next crop.
5. Clean and fill bird-feeders to attract birds, and their pollination services. No garden is complete without bird friends! Remember to clean and dry your feeders to prevent spread of disease. Birds offer pollination and fertilization services while adding beauty and complexity to our gardens. Food is in short supply in early spring, when birds are nesting and need energy. Try adding more bird feeders. The birds will repay you with lushness for your garden and food for your soul.
If you need help with spring clean-up or any other garden and land care tasks, Earthshine Gardens is here to help. Jump start your 2018 landscape today with the South Shore’s holistic ecological land care company. Contact us today.
That said, nature awaits. Let’s get outside and garden!
What an amazing first season it has been! We want to express our sincere thanks to our clients, vendors, staff, family, friends and community who supported us this year. Thanks to you, Earthshine Gardens has designed, created and cared for some beautiful outdoor spaces across the South Shore in 2017. Our projects included designing and creating six new gardens, creating three forest trails and stewarding sixteen properties over the season.
As we move towards winter, we are winding down our field work to focus on landscape designs and other preparations for the 2018 growing season. With fall also comes time to reflect on this amazing whirlwind journey we've been on. We feel immensely grateful for the warm welcome we received this year as a new local business. We look forward to continuing our work next year to make the communities we love greener, more beautiful and more connected.
THANK-YOU for helping us grow!
With love, Caitlin and Guy Doucette
It brings me (Caitlin) great joy to launch and share our new holistic ecological land care business, Earthshine Gardens! Starting in 2017, we will be offering a suite of organic garden and land care services in our community here in South Shore, Nova Scotia. In our work, our team will seek to re-connect our clients with their land and provide our community with meaningful experiences in nature.
I am thrilled to be working with a skilled team including Gardeners, Forest Technicians and even an Artist-in-Residence. Our small-team structure will allow us to personalize our projects to give our clients the best service possible. Together, our team has strong and diverse experience working with nature in ecological garden and land care initiatives. I am excited to provide an alternative to conventional landscaping that enhances beauty and bounty, while strengthening the ecological value, biodiversity and natural resilience of our land.
This new venture brings together so many things that I am passionate about - people, gardens, nature, food and creativity. I have experienced the immense power and positive energy of really being in nature, of eating fresh garden harvests and of sinking hands into the soil. Earthshine Gardens will offer a new way for my team and me to share this experience by bringing it to others in our community.
I love to connect so please feel encouraged to contact me. I believe that nurturing strong and resilient communities is the root of living more local, more sustainable and ultimately more fulfilling lives.
Warmly, Caitlin Doucette