It is excellent Canadians are doing their part by social isolating and physical distancing, so we can fight this COVID-19 virus and get things back to a new normal soon! One way of keeping up the positivity is gardening. Gardens can bring positive energy to isolation blues.
It can be hard to be cooped up at home for days at a time, so like those who battle depression or have physical limitations, we have to find ways to stay positive.
Fun Facts: Gardening & Nature Are Healthy Ways To Lifts Your Emotions
Researchers at Bristol University and University College in England found soil bacteria that increase our serotonin levels when we garden. It gets the body to increase serotonin, which is the chemical in our body that helps make us feel energetic and happy. (Nice to know there are good bacteria, too!)
Here Are Some Other Points About How Gardening Lifts Your Spirits:
- Gives a person a sense of purpose. Since we are kept from our regular work, gardening is a small project that is totally under your control.
- It develops nurturing skills and connections. You are caring for little plants and watching them grow. It may increase your ability to see other needs and confirm you do have the skills to listen or help. Sharing with others online about your growing experience can connect you to people with similar interests.
- Nature helps elevate hormone levels. It is common knowledge that being in the outdoors can calm and centre people who are anxious or depressed. There are studies by Golding (2018), McMaahon and Estes (2015) that show even looking at pictures of green spaces can help elevate moods. When we stress, cortisol levels rise and create anxiety. When you are in nature or garden, cortisol levels decrease.
- Gardening focuses on the mind and reduces stress. My mother used to say busy hands – rested mind. That is why those stress toys on your desk work. They give your brain a little break while it focuses on the hand movements. Exercise, whether it is walking, running, basketball or gardening, is a proven therapy for depression and anxiety. (Don’t go all out in buying a bunch of plants or tools though, as the hit to the pocketbook would definitely decrease those feel-good vibrations!)
So Given Gardening Is Good For Us, Is It Too Early In Southern Alberta To Start Planting?
The answer is yes, no and a matter of “IF”
It all depends on the weather. There is a reason farmers take a handful of soil, look at the weather and check their computerized software before beginning to plant in the spring. It has to be warm and dry enough to work the soil and plant the seeds to grow.
It is definitely time to plan your yard renovations, or what flowers or plants you want in your beds. If you have some ideas, you can call a greenhouse or professional landscape company like Landscape 360 and speak with our knowledgeable staff about layouts, yard construction and plant selection. If you want, get a couple of quotes for work. You can set up times where a landscape contractor can drive by and work up a quote or send some pictures to give them an idea of what is needed.
Areas close to the foothills still have significant snow, but IF you live in Calgary or areas east of Calgary, snow in most yards is gone.
IF the ice is gone from the grass, you can safely take off excess leaves or pinecones and pet droppings.
IF the ground is still frozen or soggy and wet, it is too early to thatch your lawn. Deep raking at this time can pull out the grass by the roots. Wait until the frost is gone, the grass is greening, and the lawn is dry. That goes for applying fertilizer too. Using it too soon can burn the developing roots and blades.
Flower & Vegetable Beds
IF the soil is workable and the temperature gets to about 10 degrees celsius consistently, you can begin to clean away winter sticks and leaves.
IF case there is still the risk of snow, a little leaf cover can protect your plants from early frost, so it is better to leave it.
IF the soil is still wet and cold, hold off rototilling until about 6-8 inches of soil is dry and warming.
When you till too soon, it compacts and clumps up the earth and destroys its fertility. Using a rototiller too early destroys all the delicate balances going on between bacteria, worms and thawing soil and reviving plants.
Bushes & Trees
You can cut back on deciduous trees now before the buds or leaves start. Prune branches less than 2 inches wide, but leave the larger ones.
Flowering trees and bushes should be left until flowering is over. Prune fruit-bearing trees in early winter.
You can start pruning raspberry canes that gave fruit last year as they won’t give fruit on those canes again. Leave the new cane growth because the berries will come out on the new shoots. Pruning helps to increase berry, flower and fruit production.
Be sure you take safety precautions when you prune and make sure your tools are sharp. Some trees require a dormant oil to keep larvae and pests from harming the tree. Contact your garden centre or arborist for the product and method of treatment.
IF you are unsure what or how to prune, talk to or hire a qualified arborist or professional landscape contractor. If you prune the wrong way you can damage a bush or tree, and let disease in, or set you up to be the blocks, ugly tree winner!
Seeds & Plants
It is too early to plant annuals, but some of your bulbs or perennials might be showing bits of green. Don’t disturb the cover until it warms up as it shelters the new shoots from colder storms.
You can plant hardy seeds when the soil is ready and you can absolutely start your seeds indoors.
Many online garden centres have catalogues of seeds. They will mail the seeds, growing supplies, or root cuttings and bulbs to you.
Garden Centres in Calgary are open, but for staff and patron safety, they are observing distancing rules. Pepare to wait calmly at staggered till lines or you can arrange for curbside pickup. Closer to the end of May, bedding flats will be ready, but check if they are taking telephone orders, deliver, or they are limiting shoppers in the store.
We are in a zone 3 area, with some micro-climates tolerating zone 4 plants. This should help you to choose the right seeds and plants. Be careful in your selections because some seed providers in the USA and don’t have seeds and plants compatible with our climate and may not be able to send things over the border.
Here are a few companies to check out: Versey Seed, Edgebrook Farm, Sterns, and Mackenzie Seed to name a few.
IF conditions are right, here is a Garden Retreat planting date summary that will let you know what you can plant now, and when to plant other seeds directly in the ground.
Those seeds that have to wait for warmer weather can be planted indoors now and then transplanted later.
Many people will be putting in vegetable gardens this year, in case the border trade is slows or shuts down. Homeowners are looking forward to serving vegetables and berries grown from their own garden.
Early spring is the time to go through your tools and get them ready to use. Sharpen lawnmower blades, axes, hedge cutters, pruning tools, shovels, and edgers. Clean up wheelbarrows and pump up the tires. Service your lawnmower as condensation can form over the winter in the tank, and you may need to brush or replace spark plugs.
As for the rest of spring cleanup, it is an excellent time to organize your to-do list. Do a walk around and see if fences need boards fixed. Painting can be done when the weather is warm and dry. Look at your home for exterior maintenance issues. Take out your hoses, and when warm weather hits, you can turn on exterior water. Prep your irrigation systems and blow the lines out with compressed air.
Landscape 360 is a Calgary landscaping company that has been serving the area since 2008. We offer landscape construction, custom stonework, irrigation, retaining walls and more. Contact us if you want help getting your yard ready this spring.