It’s a Canadian tradition to get through winter by—at least sometimes—fantasizing about warmer days to come. Soon enough, dreams will become a reality, and you’ll want a beautiful outdoor space to call your own.
Frankie Flowers is a four-time best-selling author and gardening expert who was voted Toronto’s favourite weatherman (Toronto’s CITY-TV) eight years in a row. Frankie’s garden advice has twice earned him Landscape Ontario’s Garden Communicator of the Year, among many other awards. Frankie’s family runs one of the largest combined greenhouse/garden centre operations in Ontario, Bradford Greenhouses.
My husband and I moved to a new town over the winter, and our lawn is a big question mark. But even if you’ve been working on the same patch of grass for several years, Frankie has practical tips to make it better than ever. Walmart.ca has all of the gardening tools and outdoor power tools you’ll need to do the job.
Flowers says, despite the urge to get outside and dig in the dirt, don’t start too early. “People will go right after the snow is melted and the soil is saturated with moisture. If it’s spongy under your feet, let it dry out, or you’ll create compaction of the soil where you step and do more harm than good,” he explains. “When it feels solid under your feet, the time is right.”
Gardening can be hard work so make sure you’re physically ready. “Spring and summer are times when chiropractors and massage therapists get really busy!” exclaims Flowers. “People forget to stretch, and they hurt themselves. Get excited; get out there, but just don’t get hurt!”
Part of staying safe is dressing properly. No flip-flops for gardening or—heaven forbid—lawn mowing! Protect your toes with good footwear. Wear insect repellent and where ticks are a concern, proper clothing (long pants tucked into your socks and a long-sleeved shirt) is recommended. If you melt in the sunlight like me, a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen are a must. When they come out with SPF 500, I’ll be first in line!
First task: clean up any debris that gathered over the winter, including sticks and leaves. Spring is a great time to pull weeds, so they don’t have a chance to germinate. Flowers says you should assess the condition of your entire lawn, so you’ll know what you’re up against as you help bring it back to life. If moles have done damage, tamp down any tunnels and apply blood meal, to discourage rodents from making your lawn their favourite Airbnb.
“Over years and years of traffic from kids, pets and your lawnmower, your soil can get compacted,” says Flowers. “If it’s really hard packed, rain and fertilizer will just float away. Aeration is essential in high traffic areas.” Aeration allows moisture, oxygen and nutrients to get into your lawn, resulting in stronger root growth and healthier grass.
No kneeling or bending is required with this tool at the ready. Remove 4-inch long plugs (¾-inches in diameter) with Fiskars Coring Aerator. This long-handled, steel aerator has a lifetime warranty. Dual grips offer control, and an extra-large foot platform assists in giving you more power against hardened soil.
Thatch is dead grass built up around the base of your lawn. Flowers says too much can get in the way of rain and fertilizer, and it’s also a breeding ground for insects and disease. It needs to be raked up at the start of the season and again if too much collects.
So, how much is too much thatch? “An acceptable rate is a half-inch,” says Flowers. Otherwise, get raking!
If you’re finding de-thatching and removal of dead grass and growth in the garden to be a regular task, the Sun Joe 13” Electric Scarifier could be your best friend in the quest to tame your turf. Its 12-amp electric motor with simple push-button start carves through 13” wide tracks of thatch.
Start by top-dressing the bare patches. This term doesn’t mean, as I wrongly believed, wearing fancy clothes to do gardening! Top dressing means spreading an even layer of soil across your grass to fill in where it’s needed. Flowers advises covering the entire lawn if it’s more than 50% weeds. “In that case, it’s better to start over than to try to repair it,” he explains.
Flowers acknowledges that having a few dots of yellow in the green is more acceptable these days. “If you want to justify having dandelions, they’re one of the first weeds to flower and provide food for bees,” he says, while admitting that he still prefers an all-green lawn.
Flowers recommends using a meat thermometer to make sure the ground is warm enough for grass seeds. “Your lawn needs to be at least 20°C, or they won’t grow,” he stresses.
Next, spread the right type of grass seed for light (sunny or shady). Rake the seeds into the soil; there’s no need to add more soil on top.
Scotts’ patented all-in-one particle is suitable for all lawn types in all growing seasons. All food and no filler means you’ll be on your way to enjoying your best lawn yet.
Flowers says a lawn needs a half-inch of water per week and if it hasn’t been raining, you’ll need to fill in for Mother Nature. He shares the simplest way to figure out when you’ve watered enough. As you turn on your sprinkler, make a note of the time.
“Place an empty margarine container in the middle of the watering pattern. When it gets to half an inch, you’ll know how long to leave your sprinkler on.”
Who says you shouldn’t have luxury in a hose? Let’s be honest, one of the few tools that will make a regular appearance in your weekly yardwork is your garden hose. Ease of use, reliability and durability will make sure your go-to hose stays as true to you as you are to your hard work in the yard.
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Cut your grass once a week to 2 ½ or 3 inches. Too short leaves it vulnerable to drought and damage from the summer sun. Too long invites insects and makes it harder to cut. Flowers suggests attaching a mulching blade to your mower. He says to make sure your mulched grass doesn’t become unwanted thatch.
“A mulching blade will pulverize the grass so it will break down and return nutrients to the soil,” explains Flowers. “However, if the blades of grass left behind are taller than the blades on your lawn, you need to rake that up. It will block the sunlight and get in the way of a healthy lawn.”
To mulch or not to mulch? You can do both with this lightweight gas mower from Poulan Pro. No tools are required to switch from side discharge to mulch. Its 21-inch cutting deck and high rear wheels are designed to move easily on all types of terrain and help you get the job done fast. A quick-adjust feature raises and lowers the cutting height at each wheel.
Flower and vegetable beds
Clean up twigs and other scraps that accumulated over the winter. Flowers says he adds sheep manure to his veggie-garden beds. In the flower garden, decide whether to divide perennials, but timing is important. Flowers says to prune after it blooms. “If you cut something down before it blooms, you could hurt it,” he explains.
Walmart’s in-store garden centres have plenty of fresh ideas for beautiful summer blooms, but if you’re itching to get some colour in your garden a little early, Flowers suggests pansies.
“They can take a little bit of cold, and they are an edible flower,” he informs. “Plant them in gardens or containers. Add them to a salad. Ice them and put them on a cake!”
Sounds good, but Pansy Pot Pie might be taking it a little too far.
Summer will be here before you know it and your lawn will be ready, thanks to Frankie Flowers’ great advice!
See also: How to Clean Your BBQ Grill