As the snow pack starts to melt away from the long Alberta winter, it’s the time of year for all Calgary’s gardeners to start mapping their spring cleanup projects to get ready for the new growing season. There’s always the basic maintenance work like scooping up pet messes, clearing up fallen debris from trees and patching and fixing the walkways, but then the fun of planning the garden beds begins. Whether you’re simply looking at garden bed upkeep or designing a brand new garden bed, there’s plenty of work to get you outside as the weather starts to warm up.
Garden Bed Basics
While not every garden bed is the same size or shape, and definitely do not hold the same plants or flowers, there’s a series of garden bed upkeep basics that you’ll need to undertake to keep your old beds look fresh:
- Weeding – the key to any successful garden bed is keeping it free from weeds, though there is always plenty of debate as to what should constitute a weed. In more organic and permaculture based gardens, you should be looking for understory and sister plants to grow that will actually help other plants to thrive. However, for most Calgary gardeners, it’s enough to undertake spring weeding to make sure that only the plants you want to grow are getting the water and nutrients from your soil.
- Edging – next up is redefining the borders of your existing beds. Garden bed edging brings a couple of different benefits to your plants. Firstly, it helps to limit the spread of grass from your yard and the associated weeds that come with it. Secondly, it allows you to define spaces which often allows you to redesign which plants go where. Finally, it makes your garden look more organized as there will be clear lines and borders across your space.
- Mulching – finally, ever good gardener knows the importance of properly mulching your flowers. Again, if you choose to follow organic or permaculture growing guidelines, you should be looking for piles of small deciduous wood chips, homemade compost or aged manure to cover up the bare soil and feed your plants from the surface. If you’re more aesthetically minded, you should pick dyed hemlock or pine mulch as these will give long lasting color all summer long.
To Raise Or Not To Raise
If you’re thinking about installing new garden beds, you need to make the decision whether to build raised beds or dig your new garden beds into the ground.
Raised beds bring a lot of benefits to your garden. They bring your plants up to a higher level meaning that there’s less kneeling down for you. This is a great benefit for plants that grow fruits or vegetables as it significantly reduces the picking time. Raised beds also allow you greater control over the pH of your soil as you’re effectively building the soil from scratch. If you time it right, you can create a “soil lasagne” in the fall from various organic composting materials straight in your raised bed. Over winter, these will start to decompose and create a beautiful soil for your new raised beds. Finally, raised beds are aesthetically pleasing and control the growth of spreading plants like mint or cucumbers. This makes raised beds a great tool if you have limited garden space (or limited time for specific garden maintenance work).
On the flip side, you can put your new garden beds directly in the ground, and there’s several benefits to taking this approach. For starters, there’s no construction materials to buy, and you can have your new bed dug up and planted in an afternoon. The most you’ll have to buy is some garden bed edging to keep the weeds, but this is cheap and can be made of easily available materials like cardboard. Another benefit of in-ground beds is that you’re not limited by size. If you’ve got big shrubs and plants, you don’t want to limit them by the size of your raised bed planters or flower pot design. Finally, dug in beds make use of your natural soil type and acidity. This means that you can buy plants and flowers that will thrive in your existing soil without having to add chemicals to change or alter the composition.
Hedge Shaping And Trimming
A final part of spring garden maintenance is looking after your hedges. It’s tempting to just let nature run its course, but eventually, you’re going to want to get into hedge trimming and shaping for these reasons:
- Promote growth – one of the main reasons for hedge trimming in the spring is to promote new growth on old branches. This pruning should take place after the last frost but before the weather turns wet so that the wounds you inflict on the tree have time to fully heal before the spring rains turn them to rot.
- Clear walkways – left unattended, your hedges will continue to grow and extend year after year. What starts off as a cute little shrub can easily become invasive to the habitable parts of your gardens, and you don’t want to spend your summer fighting off sharp thorns or prickly leaves as you move through the garden. Trimming your hedges yearly helps you to keep control over your wild environment.
- Aesthetics – finally, many gardeners like to engage in some hedge shaping during spring to keep their garden looking neat and tidy. While you might not go for the full topiary look, with animals and mythical creatures carved from your hedges, you can achieve some pleasant effects with symmetrical shaping on adjacent bushes or smooth circular cuts to lend a more sophisticated air to your garden.
Getting Professional Help
While all of these tasks can be fun to do by yourself, if you’re looking to save time and money on your garden bed maintenance, Calgary has Scoop, a local property maintenance service to help you out. Whether it’s a one time spring time garden bed kick starter, or a monthly garden maintenance contract, Scoop has everything you need to get your green thumbs back in action this season.