In The Garden : Welcome To Spring 2017

Latest News

In The Garden : Welcome To Spring 2017

Recovering from the heavy weight of snow on their branches, the cedars are now bent over. The local rabbit population have nibbled the bark on your young apple tree, and the yew hedge is burned on the south and west sides. This may not describe your garden, but these are things I’m witnessing in mine. Many of your precious plants can be saved with the following information.


The dead foliage on the south and west sides of your yews, holly, boxwood, and other evergreen shrubs, isn’t necessarily the result of a cold winter, but more likely a sun burn. The sun is remarkably powerful as we approach spring. As the sun reflects off of the late season snow, it can burn the outside foliage of the aforementioned shrubs. There’s very little you can do to solve this problem. Using a gloved hand, give the plant a vigorous shake to get rid of some of the brown foliage. By late May or early June, your evergreens will look fresh as a daisy as the new growth pushes past the dead, brown foliage.


You may notice salt damage along the margins of the driveway and the street, in addition to plants that have salt-laden soil near their roots. The west-facing foliage of the cedar hedges will have received the brunt of the westerly winds that carry the salt spray from the road. The answer to all three of these dilemmas is to wash them down with clean water from your garden hose. Soak the foliage of all plants that have been exposed to salt and to salt spray.

To save your tired lawn, spread a three- to four-centimetre layer of triple mix or lawn soil over the thin and damaged portions, then broadcast grass seed by hand at the rate of about one kilo per 100 square metres. Rake the works smooth, step on it to get a firm contact with the soil and seed, and water it well for up to six weeks until it has germinated. Fertilize your entire lawn, especially the boulevard at this time of year, to bring it back to life. Use a quality, slow release fertilizer with DDP iron in it for the best results. Or, you can apply a lawn recovery product that contains all of the above ingredients – seed, fertilizer and compost.


The weight of a wet snowfall may have pulled your cedars and junipers down to the ground. Pull them into an upright position and secure them by using long two- by two-inch stakes or guide wires. Or, you can leave them alone and wait for the sap to rise. When late spring arrives and new growth appears, the chances are very good that your sad-looking evergreens will find their own way into their naturally upright position.


You may find that these have been nibbled by rabbits and other vermin. When the snow lies deep, winter ready rodents (versus those who hibernate) get hungry, as their normal food sources are covered. The bark on a young fruit or crabapple tree becomes very tempting by late winter. If you have lost the bark layer all the way around a branch or the trunk, it is likely dead. If the rascally rodent only ate a portion of the bark, you could be in luck. Do not use a sealant or pruning paint. Never underestimate nature’s ability to fix things without our interference.

You really won’t know the extent of damage until the daytime temperatures rise and new growth appears. In the meantime, plant some pansies and violas – you can’t go wrong with an early splash of colour.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at


Featured Products