Citytv’s gardening expert Frank Ferragine, aka Frankie Flowers, says the recent whacky winter may make for an even whackier spring.
While people generally associate warm, sunny weather with the resurgence of gardening, Ferragine explains the mild winter can actually have a negative effect on spring gardening.
“Because we didn’t have a lot of cold temperatures, a lot of insects and disease will have overwintered with ease,” said Ferragine. “So we could have greater insect populations and disease problems.”
That makes it more important than ever to heed good gardening techniques and to be extra vigilant in spotting potential pests.
To help ensure your gardening efforts will be fruitful this season, Ferragine has put together five simple tips that will have your yard blooming in all the right places.
1) Pick the right plant for the right place
Take into consideration the plant’s light requirements, if you have adequate shade, space and how much maintenance it requires.
“If you’re a busy person, you’re looking for plants that are fairly low maintenance,” said Ferragine.
If that’s what you’re looking for, he recommends considering the purple coneflower.
“It’s a drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, light summer-blooming perennial plant that performs year after year,” Ferragine said. “So you don’t really need to give it a lot of water.”
He also suggested checking out Dragon Wing Begonias, which are good for pots and only need occasional watering and fertilizing.
2) Take time to smell the roses — literally.
One of the most effective means of maintaining a healthy garden is being proactive, says Ferragine.
“Go out and look at your garden, and if there’s a disease or something that shows up, you should get on top of it right away,” he said.
Any unusual looking foliage or an abundance of insects is a warning sign.
“The quickest thing you can do if you see insects on your plants outdoors, just blast them with water and that will get them off right away,” Ferragine said. “Or you can use insecticidal soap.”
3) Don’t foil the soil
“A happy bottom will give you a great top, and that means if the roots are happy you’re going to have a great plant,” said Ferragine.
He says it’s important to choose the right soil for the right application, even if it’s a little more expensive.
“That $1.99 bag of soil is usually a garden soil or black soil that’s meant for the garden,” Ferragine said. “If you were to use that in a pot, for container gardening, it’s too heavy and basically your plants will die.”
One should also be aware of how much filler is in the soil and look out for “root rot”, which is when roots sit in water too long and drown.
“I always compare it to if you sat in a tub for 24 hours, how would you feel?”
4) Water in the morning
Ferragine points out that due to work schedules, many forget to water in the morning and end up doing so in the evening.
“The problem with watering your plants at night, is that they’ll sit wet through the evening and with that you’ll build insect populations,” he said. “Insects love a wet garden.”
The best method is a heavy water followed by several days of leaving it alone.
“You want to water deeply and infrequently,” Ferragine said. “And that means be a soaker.”
And you don’t need to wait for the warm and sunny days to trek out to the yard.
“Everybody usually wants to garden on the sunniest day,” Ferragine said. “But actually the best day to garden is when it’s overcast and forecasted to rain at night.”
5) Don’t prune too soon
“A lot of people prune plants at the wrong time,” Ferragine said.
“If I were to prune a lilac right now, I’d have no lilac blooms.”
A general rule of thumb is to prune a plant after it flowers.
Ferragine, who is also the weather specialist for Breakfast Television, said it could be particularly important to water plants this season.
“It looks like this season is supposed to be warmer and dryer then normal,” he said. “And for plants a hot, dry, windy day is really stressful on them.”
Gardeners can also anticipate a “whacky” year due to plants being out of their normal growth cycles.
“When you think about March with temperatures of 26 degrees in Toronto, this is going to be a year where everything just isn’t going to be normal.”
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