Mark and Ben’s Ultimate Spring Checklist
By Mark and Ben Cullen
1. Start seeds indoors, to plant out in spring. It is a lot of fun and a great way to engage kids in the hobby of gardening at virtually any age. Successful seed starting combines quality materials and good timing. And of course – seeds!
While it is not too late to start tomato seeds we started ours about a month ago. Right now, in mid May, we are starting our cucurbits: cucumbers, zucchini, melons and the like and fast germinating annuals like zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and nasturtiums.
For the best success rate in starting seeds, use high quality seeds, clean seeding trays and a seed-start germination mix.
By growing vegetables and annuals from seed, you get a head start on the season, save some money [vs. buying them as transplants later in spring] and you have a great opportunity to try new varieties.
There is a lot of satisfaction in starting seedlings indoors while the weather is still bitterly cold outdoors.
What you will need: Grow Light Stand [or a south facing window], Seeding trays, Seed Start Soilless Mix, Watering can.
2. Garden Soil Prep. Take a look at your garden soil before you do any planting this spring. 90% of the success you achieve in the garden is the result good soil prep.
Your soil should be loose and friable with the ability to drain freely. IF this does not describe your garden soil, we recommend that you add generous quantities of organic compost. By ‘generous quantities’, we suggest that you add 4 to 6 cm [2 to 3 inches] of compost or triple mix to the surface of your garden beds. Plus worm castings, about one part to 10 parts compost.
When we are planting, we always add compost to the planting hole. This feeds the soil and introduces billions of micro-organisms to the garden. Well-fed soil breeds strong, disease-tolerant plants. Insects are less prone to feed on healthy plants as the natural defenses of the plant are working at their optimum.
What you will need: Compost [from a reliable supplier!], Mark’s Choice worm castings, Shovel, Gardening gloves.
3. Lawn Care. The best method of growing a healthy, weed-free lawn is to produce thick, healthy grass that will shade out weeds and crabgrass.
The first step this spring is to use a spring-tined rake to remove any debris, dead grass, leaves, etc. from the lawn. Add these to your compost pile.
Secondly, spread a 2-4cm layer of triple mix over the lawn, concentrating on depressions and thin areas. Sow a quality grass seed, such as CIL Iron Plus, at a rate of 1 kilogram for every 80 sq. metres. Keep the area watered and evenly moist until the grass seed germinates.
The new 4 in 1 seed/compost/nitrogen and iron combo is an excellent method of growing a new lawn or thickening an established one. No need to haul large quantities of soil or compost!
If your lawn is in good shape, simply repair any bare spots and fertilize with a quality spring fertilizer with slow release nitrogen like Iron Plus. The slow release nitrogen will last for up to 10 weeks – no need to repeat application until late spring or early summer.
What you will need: Spring-tined rake, Triple mix, Grass seed, Hose, Sprinkler, Spring Lawn Fertilizer.
4. Tool Maintenance. Start the garden season off with a clean, sharp and well-maintained set of tools. This is a great time of year to visit your local hardware store and replace any missing or damaged tools you need for the growing season.
Clean out the lawn mower deck with a hand-held mower scraper. A dirty lawn mower deck can harbour disease and reduce the efficiency of the mower.
Sharpen mower blades to ensure grass blades are cut cleanly using a sharpening file. Dull blades will cause the grass blades to tear grass blades, weakening the plants and providing an opportunity for diseases to enter the lawn.
Sharpen the cutting blade on hand pruners with a carbide sharpener and lubricate all moving parts to make pruning jobs easier.
Run a file over the cutting edge of shovels, spades and hoes to make quick work of gardening chores.
What you will need: Lawn Mower scraper, Carbide Sharpener, Gardener’s File, Lubricating Oil.
Take time to have some fun in your garden – the long “planting weekend” is just around the corner and much of Canada is forecast to warm up nicely.