As the days warm up, the urge to get a jump on spring gardening becomes hard to resist! Sun, warmth, the melting snow and the return of birds and wildlife all bring us outdoors. However, as the nights can still dip below freezing, we know it’s wise to exercise restraint at this time of year. Gardening in Alberta presents specific challenges due to our cold climate and short growing season.
You may find yourself doing more harm than good in the long term if you don’t wait for consistently warm days and non-freezing nights to begin cleaning up after winter. It is best to stay off your lawn as much as possible while things warm up and dry off. Walking on your lawn while the ground is too spongy can make your lawn lumpy and can stop the new growth of your grass.
Raking your grass too early will pull up protective thatch (I think most people are guilty of this!), and you will also tend to uproot new tendrils of grass. Damaging new growth can lead to your lawn looking patchy later in the year. Additionally, lots of beneficial insects, including pollinators like bees and pest-munching predators like syrphid flies, and wasps, spend the winter hunkered down in hollow plant stems either as adults or pupae. Cutting down the dead plant stems too early in the spring will disturb them before they have a chance to emerge.
Wait until it has been above zero at night for at least a couple of weeks before starting your spring clean-up. Your lawn will then be hardy enough to stand a good raking, and the ground perfect for the benefits of aeration. You’ll also keep those bugs around that provide food for birds and will benefit your garden throughout the growing season!
Part of your spring clean-up should include making sure that all debris and leaves are cleared from your eavestroughs, drains and down-spouts. Winter storms can result in a surprising accumulation, and hey, if you’re just taking down your Christmas lights now, may as well clean out the eavestroughs at the same time! Good luck and enjoy the transformation that this season change brings!