After a long winter of anticipation, there is a temptation to race out into the garden with abandon. With so many things to do, it’s easy to wear yourself out before you can enjoy the miracles that the season brings.
Spring bulbs bursting, magnolias and peonies popping, lilacs lighting up – make sure to stop and appreciate these early gifts of the gardening season before getting too much dirt beneath the fingernails and once you have, get started on the work below. 
Plant. It is hard to say when and what you should plant without explaining that frost plays a critical role. Frost-sensitive plants like tomatoes, petunias, geraniums and the like should not be planted out until the threat of frost is past. For most parts of Canada that is the 24th of May. For zones 2, 3 and 4, we would suggest that planting a week later is not a bad idea.

For plants that are not frost-sensitive, like flowering shrubs, trees, perennials, roses and evergreens you can plant now. If, however, you purchase plants that are 'greenhouse fresh' make sure that you harden them off by placing them out of doors for a few hours mid day and protecting them in the garage or indoors the balance of the day and evening. Lengthen the time that they are out of doors each day for about 2 weeks until they are well acclimatized to outdoor wind, sun and evening temperatures.

Dig and divide. Perennials that are overgrown are best dug up and divided this time of year. Use a spade, shovel or garden fork to dig up the whole clump and then slice the clump in half, then half again [like a pie]. Plant the divisions in the appropriate locations or give to the appropriate friends/family [preferably ones who like to garden].

Soil prep. 90% of your gardening success depends on it. Add generous quantities of compost to your planting holes and/or garden. Give the roots of your new plants a happy place to grow and feed the soil with plenty of organic nutrition. Mark spreads 2 cm of finished compost mixed with 30% sharp sand over his entire garden each spring.

Plant veggies from seed. You can plant carrots, onions, peas, lettuce, mesclun mix, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower this time of year from seed.

Remove existing soil from containers, toss it in your garden [or give it away to a gardener if you live in a high-rise] and replace with quality container mix.
While most garden tasks begin with the warmer soil temps of May, many vegetable gardeners start their season as far back as February with seed selection and starting. With those seedlings now nearing transplant readiness, here are some things to be thinking about in the veggie garden:

-         Harden off your transplants by leaving them out during the day for successively longer periods until it is safe to leave them out over night. Temperatures reliably above 15 degrees C will be safe for any food crop.

-         Get your soil ready by laying down a thick layer (2.5 to 5cm) of compost, followed by another thick layer of mulch (5 to 7.5cm) for beds like a Deep n’ Delicious cake for vegetables to grow in.

-         Direct sow your peas, radishes, carrots, onions (sets and multipliers) leaks, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, kale, leaf lettuce and spinach. For brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower take the time to set up a row cover to protect against aphids and cabbage worms before they have the chance to become a problem. A spun polyester row cover will also help shade the plants just slightly to avoid bolting when the weather gets hot.
-         Split your rhubarb or ask for some from a friend if you don’t already have a rhubarb plant in your garden.

-         Establish other perennial food crops like asparagus and berries, will benefit from damp soils at this time of year to establish their roots. So too will fruit trees, which are best planted at this time of year in sunny locations with good airflow to minimize fungal issues down the road. 
Episode 41 with Lee Ann Downey
In this episode, Ben chats with Lee Anne Downey of Stonewell Farm (, a lavender growing operation outside Erin, Ontario.
Lee Anne is also former President of the Ontario Lavender Association and a current Master Gardener, and she joins Ben to talk about this unique plant, the various opportunities it presents for the Canadian gardener. 

Every spring, this is one of the most popular gardening questions. There are basic steps you can follow to grow a healthy lawn.

1. The first step in any gardening project is good soil preparation. Established lawns should be raked lightly with a fan rake. This will remove winter debris and loose thatch to allow the grass plants to 'breathe'.

Follow up with a layer of lawn soil to fill in any low areas or bare patches. Quality lawn soil helps retain moisture for fast seed germination and establishment of strong, healthy turf.

2. The second step is to overseed your lawn every year. This should be done in early May. Use a top-quality grass seed. Overseeding each spring helps to fill in bare spots and dramatically reduce weeds in the lawn.

3. Fertilize your lawn. This allows the lawn to compete with weeds and win. Fertilize in the spring with a quality lawn food that contains slow-release nitrogen and iron.  Or don’t, as many Canadian gardeners are now leaving their lawn to the devices of nature.

4. Don’t cut your lawn until the dandelions have finished blooming as they are a favourite of pollinators (bees). Then, set your lawn mower to cut at 5 to 7 cm. Allowing the grass to grow at this height will shade out many weeds and the roots of the grass plants will grow more deeply. A deep root system allows the lawn to survive during periods of drought. Maintain mower blades to keep them sharp so they are cutting the blades of grass and not tearing them.
Spring Birding with the Warblers Podcast
By: Jody Allair
One project I have been working on over the past two years is producing Birds Canada’s award-winning podcast – The Warblers. The Warblers shares Canadian information, insights and inspiration on the world of birds and bird conservation.

The lively discussions are hosted by Andrea Gress whose curiosity leads to discovering fun facts and useful tips while travelling uncommon flight paths to learn from expert guests. 
Recently I joined our host Andrea, along with our colleague Amanda Bichel, for a morning of spring birding in Calgary. We chat about birding pointers as we seek out Harlequin Ducks, Buffleheads, Wood Ducks, California Gulls and welcome back many of our summer songbird friends, like the classic American Robin. You can even check out the full list of our sightings on eBird Canada
You can listen to the episode here: Spring Birding: “Go find some ducks!” 
And please let us know what you think by leaving a comment and subscribing where ever you get your podcasts.
Good Birding!
Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram at: @JodyAllair
Harrowsmith's Magnolia Flower Recipes

Plate Your Petals! That’s right, you can use spring-blooming magnolia blossoms in your cooking, much like rose petals, to add subtle flavour. Harrowsmith’s collection of delicious — and easy! — recipes use magnolia blossoms in flavoured sugar, cookies, cakes, vinegar, salads and more. Find the recipes at
Don’t miss an issue of Harrowsmith’s gardening, cooking, sustainable living and DIY tips. Harrowsmith’s Spring Issue is on newsstands now and features 23 easy recipes with leftover food, tips to set up your home workshop, planet-friendly-activities, Harrowsmith’s Complete Guide to Growing an Organic Food Garden from Mark and Ben Cullen + so much more!

Subscribe now and never miss an issue