Spring Clean-Up for your Gardens

            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.

Caitlin works with volunteers to prepare a  mandala garden  for spring planting   (Sage Rising, 2014).

Caitlin works with volunteers to prepare a mandala garden for spring planting (Sage Rising, 2014).

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!

Springing into Action: Nova Scotia's All-New Ecological Land Care Team

Spring has sprung and Earthshine Gardens is giving our local land some love. Our team is already working on land and garden care projects across Nova Scotia's South Shore. Our Gardeners are busy tending asparagus, edging new beds, completing spring clean-ups and starting veggie gardens. Our forest technicians are pruning apples, planning trails and creating rustic brush walls. Our designer is drawing up ideas for local business fronts, new home constructions and edible landscapes. Every day, we are working joyfully to reconnect Nova Scotia's people with the beautiful nature around us, one landscape at a time.

We've also been working hard behind the scene this month. We've created a stellar workshop space complete with a new tool collection. We've been out there throughout the region and online talking to people to share our story. Our team is off to a great start with a unique staff orientation focused on skill-sharing, team-building and hands-on outdoor projects.

Building Earthshine Gardens has been a positive, heart-affirming process for myself (Caitlin) and Guy. We are passionate about weaving experiences of gardens, nature and home-grown food into our community. Earthshine Gardens is a platform from which we can launch our creative contributions to growing sustainable and resilient communities. We are falling in love with our business every day that it blossoms and we are overjoyed to have this opportunity to nurture positive change.

A duck friend enjoys  Earthshine Gardens '  living shoreline  on the  LaHave River .

A duck friend enjoys Earthshine Gardens' living shoreline on the LaHave River.

Personally, creating balance in life is a key value that I (Caitlin) am trying to uphold. I believe that balance between personal, professional, political, social and emotional aspects of our lives is necessary for our wellness. I also believe in the power of popular education praxis that combines lived experiences with theoretical knowledge and critical reflection. Praxis allows us to create a sustainable feedback cycle that helps us find solutions to live better with nature and one another. This may sound complicated, but it is the same thing that nature does in an ecosystem. Elements (animals, water, soil, trees etc.) exist in relation to one another, and nature creates resilient systems by allowing feedback between the elements and their functions. For example, if there is a dry, hot climate over time, evolution by natural selection favours plants with thick leaves and deep root systems while selecting for animals with slim bodies and long limbs that cool more easily. The system receives the ecological feedback and makes the change. Nature is my inspiration to find balance as the owner of Earthshine Gardens. My hope is that holding time for reflection, knowledge-sharing, dialogue and experimentation will allow our business to respond and thrive in the face of change.

Me enjoying a morning sunbeam with my seedlings.

Me enjoying a morning sunbeam with my seedlings.

For me and Guy, balance includes creating time for personal projects. We've been having fun these past few months growing our own organic vegetable seedlings for our balcony, for our community garden plot at Hodge Podge Garden and for the new garden we are creating at Blueberry Hill, space graciously shared with us by Laura, who is a member of our staff team. I started my tomatoes early and the plants are already big and strong. I have a feeling I will be neck-deep in canning and dehydrating projects by August! We've also been nurturing our living shoreline garden on the LaHave river, building the soil, combating the Japanese knotweed and adding new plants including luscious Medway Moss. It warms our hearts to hang out with our shoreline friends - Spirit the red squirrel, a little sparrow called Mustachio and his mate, River the rat (who shares a home with Spirit), Goofy Foot our silly loon, our beloved Autumn duck (RIP), and a revolving cast of sea birds. Sometimes we are even treated with a visit from a sleek seal or majestic bald eagle! When we need a break from the gardens, we've been working on art projects and rocking out with The Shadow Band, which provides the perfect balance for our hands-on work in the field with Earthshine Gardens.

Let Earthshine Gardens give your land some love. We're now booking for the 2017 growing season. Contact us to set up your complementary site visit for stewardship, design and creation projects, or explore our website to learn more about our services. Stay connected with our holistic ecological land care team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as we spring into action!

Happy spring,

Caitlin Doucette, designer / project facilitator