Garden Views: Scratch the gardening itch while waiting for winter’s end

While you are waiting for the warmer weather think about what new things you would like to add to your garden, says our Gardening Columnist Mary Fran McQuade. Photo: Submitted.


A Canadian spring is a mudsome thing,
With patches of snow that just won’t go.
There’s earth beneath that slippery mess,
But we can only make plans, I guess.

Spring is absurdly slow to show up around here. On the calendar, spring appears sometime in March, but in chilly reality, we have to wait until mid-April, maybe May, to get down and dirty.

Meanwhile, gardeners are itching to Get Out There And Do Something (besides shovelling snow).

You can scratch that itch with this list of action items to do while you wait. They’ll not only help you hang onto your sanity, they’ll also give you a head start when it’s time to head outdoors.

Write things down

Write down a to-do list. Look around your yard, think about what went well and what didn’t last year. Maybe the lilac needs cutting back. Or the ferns are overpowering your heucharas. Do the stepping stones need relaying, or should the kids have a bigger play area? You’ll probably forget this stuff in the excitement of real, true spring, so write everything down now.

Make a shopping list. Let yourself daydream about your garden, you and your family. Do you need to get some taller plants to add height to your garden? How about adding a really dramatic focal point like a birdbath, sculpture or stone bench?

Have you been longing for a Japanese maple to tuck into a bare space?

And, really, do your garden tools bring you joy? If not, throw them out or give them away, and treat yourself to some new ones. Garden gloves, pruning saws, branch loppers, shovel, spade or bucket – they’re all part of the well-stocked shed.

Or if you’re a container gardener, check your supplies of necessities like perlite, vermiculite, potting soil and, or course, cool containers.

Think about big jobs

While you’re in your garden dream state, think about the big stuff. Just sitting in a garden is good for the soul, so are there comfy places to relax out there?

Maybe it’s time to upgrade the furniture you grabbed at a garage sale or to put up a fence that doesn’t make you cringe.

And a real path is a fine addition to a garden – looks good, keeps your feet dry and protects plants from wear and tear.

Goodies like these begin to appear in shops between the end of March and mid-April.

Do your research now, so you’ll be ready to find exactly what you want as soon as it’s on the sales floor.

After all this thinking and planning, you may decide the work is too much for you to handle yourself.

If you need help with landscaping, garden design or upkeep, talk to the pro’s early on in the game. The good ones are valuable as rubies. Ask around for recommendations.

For really big jobs, look up a member of the Landscape Ontario trade association at
Landscaping can be pricey, so ask questions before you hire someone.

At a minimum, find out their education and experience. Go over your expectations about communication and decision making.

For larger jobs, also inquire about who will be doing the work – regular employees or casual labourers – use of contractors, onsite supervision, insurance coverage and, of course references.

Bloom on

Spend a day among green and growing things, even if your own garden is bleak and dreary now.

Canada Blooms, the big annual flower and garden show, runs March 8-17 this year at the Enercare Centre in Exhibition Place. You can ooh and ahh at impressive feature gardens, be inspired by tiny dooryard and balcony gardens, and browse the selection of flowers, plants and planters for sale.

Drop into speakers’ sessions to rest your legs and exercise you brain learning about hot topics like edible gardens, attracting birds, best new plants, sustainable gardens, gardening for kids and families, and growing roses, lavender and houseplants.

Regular admission is $20, with discounts for seniors and teens; under-12s are free.

Buy at the door or online and at Sheridan Nurseries and the Toronto Botanical Garden.

More information is available at

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