Early spring: what can you start watering in your garden?

Posted by on Monday, April 11th, 2016 at 10:33am.

Lack of moisture over the winter and little rain this spring has caused desert-like conditions here in Southern Alberta.

Landscape companies are getting a jump on spring clean-ups, with the sound of lawn mowers and power rakes humming in every neighbourhood.  Even the old-timers are watching the budding leaves on cotoneaster hedges and lilac trees throughout Okotoks and wondering when the last time was they saw such an early spring.

Plants are about a month ahead of schedule and many are stressed because of the lack of moisture.  Soil isn’t as spongy as it usually is when the garden is waking up. Bulbs are popping up, crocuses blooming and even peonies and rhubarb are waking up after a long winter’s nap.

But is it too early to water?

This is only April, and we’re not quite out of the woods yet.  We may still have frost, snow flurries and sub-zero temperatures so encouraging plants and the growth of green grass isn’t something we should do say gardening experts.

It’s too early to water grass as roots aren’t quite established.  But hand-watering may be in order, particularly for those plants in very dry areas. That includes south-facing beds and those against the side of the house or other buildings.  Watering by hand will help plants become more hydrated, which in turn will make them stronger to fight off insect infestation or disease.   It’s a bit of of a balancing act though because too much water will leave plants more prone to frost damage, especially with very cold night time temperatures this time of year.

Planting in the ground

If you’ve lifted up stones or sidewalk blocks or anything else that’s been lying on the ground, you may notice that all the ground bugs, earthworms and slugs are active.  That’s also weeks ahead of schedule but just because they’re finding the earth warm enough doesn’t mean seeds will.

Again, the danger of frost is still great and perennials are much more hardy than annuals.  It’s still too early for bedding plants in the ground, but you can put them in pots above ground.  Potted plants can be brought indoors or into the garage if we get a spring blizzard and can be covered up with sheets.

Take care of your lawn

Your lawn is more than likely dry and the temptation is to water it.   It’s been dormant since last fall so the grass needs time to wake up so give it some time.  The first thing to do is rake up and fluff it up a bit which will encourage root growth.  That will also help it fight disease.  But rake gently so you don’t damage whatever new growth is occurring.  Wait until it really starts growing and not just around the edges.  At least 75% of your lawn should be awake before you give in that one inch a week.  You can start fertilizing your lawn just before it’s ready to be watered, and at least before the crab grass starts to take hold.  You might not beat the dandelions.

And a note from bee-lovers about dandelions.  When bees wake up from their hibernation, the first flowers they usually find are dandelions.  Again, gardening is about balance.

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