Gardening in Langley: There’s garden tasks to be done even in winter

Send questions to Anne Marrison via amarrison@shaw.ca. It helps to mention your city or region.

Between winter showers there’s time to do some things that you had hoped to do last fall – like cutting back the old canes on raspberries and mulching the new ones with compost, manure or Sea Soil.

The next step of shortening new raspberry canes to about five feet is always best done in late winter because during mild winters, the canes tend to put on extra growth which is easiest to handle just once.

Many of the late winter/early spring shrubs can be gently pruned ahead of time as their buds start to unfold giving you some pretty flower arrangements. These shrubs can include winter jasmine, Viburnum bodnantense, forsythia and witch hazel. The only caution is to cut sparsely into witch hazel because removing long branches tends to trigger rootstock suckers.

We’re very close to the time that lawns need winter’s blown branches cleared away and people who hate moss acquire moss removal preparations so that they get to rake dead moss instead of live moss.

But moss always returns unless the lawn is brought into grass-friendly health. This could mean any or all of several things some of which may need to be repeated each year.

A mossy lawn may need better drainage, less acidic soil, or more nutrition. Remedies may include a sand layered over the lawn, each spring and a scattering of Dolomite lime to reduce acidity.

Nutrition can be improved by a layer of compost or topsoil, by reseeding where necessary and setting the mower on a high cut in summer and leaving grass clippings on the lawn.

Sometimes shade is the main problem. If obtaining more sun is impossible, some moss-plagued people decide to love moss. The result can be very beautiful especially combined with white lawn furniture.

Shallots can be planted outdoors now and by the end of February or in early March you can plant seeds of broad beans, arugula, spinach, parsley, radishes and peas. Sugar peas are especially useful for small space since you can eat the pods early but if you don’t get around to eating the pods, you can go on to eat the peas.

Leeks can be started inside now. You may want to decide whether you prefer summer leeks such as Varna or Megaton which grow fast and mature early. The alternative is winter leeks such as Bandit or Tadorna which grow and mature more slowly and are extremely hardy.

Tomatoes and peppers can also be started inside now and people with a sheltered place to put large plants: maybe a greenhouse or a covered patio will have started them already. But a later start is sometimes best. It can be very awkward when huge tomato plants overflow windowsills but there’s no more space inside and cold weather outside.

Squash, pumpkins and zucchini pose an even worse problem since they’re extremely fast growers. I’ve found it easier to start these outside when weather warms.

Dahlias and begonias can be started indoors now. Soon summer bulbs will be in garden centres. It’s always interesting to experiment by trying one new type each season. Alliums are especially interesting because the bulbs are hardy and some kinds colonize readily.

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