Beat the Winter Blues

Are the winter blues kicking in?  Toronto got it pretty bad last week but compared to Newfoundland we probably shouldn’t complain.  John Tetford put a funny spin on things in a Facebook post that showed exactly how bad it got.

“Forget elf on a shelf. Here is a moose on a roof. Only in Newfoundland”!

Not only is the house (and perhaps even a family) buried under all that snow but there are undoubtedly shrubs and flowers waiting for the call of spring.  Things can get a bit dreary when you’re stuck in the house with your stock of non-perishables and while there are plenty of outdoor winter activities or all-inclusive vacations to keep you busy and help pass time, there are other options for those of you who prefer to stay warm and dry until the groundhog no longer sees his shadow.

Your Mind Is A Powerful Tool

If you long for the mornings when you can sit outside soaking up the sun as you enjoy your coffee in the company of the butterflies, birds and bees then now is the perfect time to design your first garden or revamp your existing one. The simple act of visualizing the colors in your garden, the warmth of the sun and buzz of natural life all around you can help transform those blues and give you a peaceful and refreshing escape.  So pop a vitamin D and get started now.

DREAM BIG!  The typical Toronto yard is small but can be transformed beyond your dreams.  A great source for getting some ideas, motivation and knowledge to help you get started is the Netflix series “Big Dreams, Small Spaces“.

Observe, Research, Plan

The most successful garden is one that is carefully thought out.  We all have our favorite flowers but what do those flowers need and want?  Is your yard able to provide it?  A little work now will have you feeling invigorated, excited and READY to spring into action when winter melts away.   You will also reap the rewards for years to come.

Is the garden area sunny, shady or part shade?  Do certain areas get only morning sun, afternoon sun or no sun at all?  What is the quality, PH and drainage of the soil?  Do the flowers you want need good drainage or do they thrive better in a moist environment?  Think about all 4 elements below, grab a pencil and paper and map out your plan.  Google flowers you like, learn about them and find a way to incorporate them into your space.

Plants Need Sun, Water, Nutrients and Soil

These factors will ultimately determine what flowers, shrubs and plants will do best in your yard and where you will place them.  You can also plan based on flowering time so that you have color throughout the garden year round.  The sky is the limit, mix colors, incorporate grasses, plants and herbs and do your best to avoid making the most common mistakes (below).  

Common Gardening Mistakes

Annuals are tempting, they look great and add instant life to a garden but you’ll have to start from scratch again every year.  This means a lot of cash and work.  In the long run investing in perennials will save you money and give you a more established garden that rewards you every year.  That said, annuals are great fillers to intersperse  throughout the garden.  They provide balance of color as the perennial blooms come and go.  They are an important accessory to the garden but shouldn’t be the garden themselves.

Failing to clear the weeds in a garden before planting is just asking for a lot of work down the road.  Not only is weeding a serious chore but weeds can choke the roots of your newly planted flowers, preventing the garden from flourishing.  The end result will be a lot of weeding and a less than desirable garden. Weed before planting and if the root system is rather intricate then consider using landscaping fabric or mulch to keep the problem at bay.

Follow the suggestions on the cards that come with your flower/plant so they don’t crowd each other.  They need space to grow both above and below ground.

When first planted, a good amount of water is needed to help take root and grow.  Plant, water and then mulch.  If you mulch prior to watering then the mulch will absorb the water and it won’t reach the roots.

Some plants can completely take over your garden and kill the rest.  If you do have a favorite that likes to spread then take this into consideration when planting.  Perhaps only plant one and give it lots of surrounding space to grow and multiply, that way it can propagate without harming the others (hopefully).

Worms aren’t the only friend of the garden, many insects are too, in fact they can ward off some destructive pests.  So be at one with nature.  A garden buzzing with insects is often a sign of health.

Just as you want the foundation of your home to do its job, the same goes for your garden and the soil is its very foundation.  Learn what kind of soil you have and take steps to improve it if necessary.

If your sun exposure isn’t perfect change placement.  If the soil isn’t ideal it can be adjusted using compost, fertilizer, mulch or even rocks.  Don’t give up, get creative and find solutions.  If the drainage is poor in the location where you want to plant your lavender then dig that hole and put some rocks or pieces of a broken pot in there.  It will raise the plant, allow drainage and protect the roots from rot.

Perhaps the most common mistake a gardener can make is lacking a plan.  A plan will give you vision, save you time, money and the energy of countless do-overs.  Whether your goal is to sell your home in the summer, spring or fall and create a space that buyers will fall in love with or to build a quiet oasis to call your own, the more you envision the garden you’re planning, the more likely it will become a reality and you will feel like you are already in it!  The days and weeks ahead are looking brighter already, bye bye winter blues!