It’s spring.
Is your garden a window box? A few containers and pots? A yard, an allotment or a country or homestead garden? When it’s spring, size doesn’t matter. Everybody has dirt on their knees, dirt under their nails, and excited about gardening.
The snow has melted; it’s started to rain, the sun returns. Buds are sprouting on trees and bushes, bulbs are poking through the snow, and at last,  the first signs of green arrive.
Being indoors has felt like a prison, now is the time to open the windows and let the freshness of Spring begin.
You’ve been waiting all year for this moment to spend all day in your garden.

What’s Your Garden Survival Triage Checklist


Every Spring is different, and you need first to take a walk and observe what’s been going on. Looking will help you to set priorities. You may discover winter garden damage. Broken branches, brown tips in new growth and poor drainage spots. The slugs may be out eating on the delicate new shoots.

Let’s get to work and the growing season begins!
Like farmers, astute gardeners understand the seasons are changing.
Every new season brings its challenges. Weather conditions change, the severity and timing. Predicted events such as winter rain may be slow, summer rain no longer reliable.
Before you start your garden routine this Spring, ask how Winter has affected your garden? What are the forecasts for the coming season? Are you still catching up from flooding or storms?

As you have suffered the winter season, so too has your garden.

Climate variability is real. In every new season, plants thrive beautifully and others are stressed. Strong winds have snapped branches, or they have died from a long and frozen winter. Leaves and tips are withered and brown, showing suffering and you can help!
How de-icing affects your garden this Spring and Summer
Have you used de-icing salts on garden pathways or driveways? Salt is cheap and easy to use, but it does affect many landscaping plants. Roots can become dehydrated leaving plants to suffer and die a slow decline.You can help these plants to thrive once more.
cleaning snow
How did you de-ice your garden paths last winter? Has there been enough rain to wash the salt away? Has the salt from your frozen paths leached into to garden? Is this affecting the plants? What to plant in their place? Are plants within a road or driveway spray area affected by salt spray?
With climate change, seasons change. If you are still de-icing in the Spring, be watchful of more severe damage.  Late season salting affects the root zone more harshly when the spring growth starts. To help these plants, water around your precious plants to leach out the salts.
snow salt damage                                                                   Image source: shreinertreecare.com

Have you observed de-icing toxicity in your garden this Spring?

Observe your garden every day. Damage caused to your plants from may not appear until late Spring or Summer.
Signs of sodium toxicity to look for are:
• Browning of leaves
• Woody die back
• Poor new bud and stem growth
• Fewer flowers
• Signs of water stress such as wilting
· Not all plants of the same species in the garden are affected equally
Immediate and Long-Term Action for De-icing Salt Toxicity
Now you are aware that there are plants within the “spray” area ( 3 feet for a path, 5 feet for a driveway and 30 feet for a road). You can take immediate action before the full growth of Spring begins.
Rinse the foliage on both the leaves, stems and give the roots a good soaking. Ensure the run off does not flow to other plants. This works well for well drained soils and more clay type soils, add some gypsum.
 garden path
If you have lost plants this Spring, learn from the experience, move on.
Before replacing with the same plant, there are some serious questions to ask.
  • Is the plant sensitive to salt?
  • Is there poor drainage?
  • Did you apply the salt in late Winter or early Spring?
  • Are there plants within the “spray” area affected more than other plants?
There are plants more tolerant to salt than others.
Viburnum varieties, a favorite perennial shrub are susceptible to salt. If these plants are suffering, try to transplant as a complete replacement may be needed. Don’t forget to ask your nursery man for advice.
Some trees can perish from salt. It’s clear now why my Red Maple is not doing well. It needs transplanting and being away from the runoff. Other variety’s sensitive to salt is the Black, and Silver Maple. The Common Boxwood, Dogwood, Back Walnut and White Pine are also affected and a selection of Alder trees are very sensitive to salt.
For a complete list of salt-sensitive tress and shrubs, this list will help. Or 33 Salt-Tolerant Plants for Landscaping, provides details worth reading.
Make careful observations in your early Spring garden walks. Know where urgent work is needed and what can wait. Take your Journal and make a list. Record the date, the location, take photo’s and name the plant if you can. Refer to your All Year Gardening journal each year, and you’ll learn more about how to care than ever imagined.
Taking Action will Prevent Toxicity This Spring.
Prevention is always better than cure, and there is action to take this Spring to protect your garden.
These actions are as follows:
  • Don’t use a de-icer with sodium. Sand will give you traction and is an alternative to salt-based products. Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is a good product but expensive. You can mix it with sand for a more affordable option.
  • Ensure there is a good supply of mulch around your plants before any de-icing begins.
  • Watch the weather, apply the mulch before the snow falls.
  • When you are confident that Spring is on its way, remove the mulch and flush the plants.
  • Plant salt-tolerant shrubs tightly within or along the “spray” area.
Has Your Garden Suffering From Too Much Rain?
Before we move on to the Spring jobs, there is another important observation to make. Are there areas of your garden that have become boggy from too much rain?
 rain damage
In areas receiving too much rain, or areas where drainage needs to be improved?
7 Signs of Water Logged Plants
Take heart you can address any water logging conditions before plants die. You do need to be aware of the symptoms of water-logging to take action and these signs include:
  • Leaves (new and old) are turning yellow
  • The edges of the leaves are turning brown.
  • Leaves are wilting or dropping
  • Promising Spring shoots and buds die
  • Water-loving weeds are thriving such as dock, toad rush, cotula, dock and Yorkshire fog grass
  • Stunted growth
  • Algae growing around the plant
Plants stressed by salt, ice and rain can become more susceptible to disease and pests.
6 Natural Slug Eradication Tips
Can you see the silver trail of slugs, a common garden pest after rain? To be rid of these slimy night creatures that eat your seedlings, follow these natural ideas.
  • Plant-strong smelling herbs. Choose mint, chives, oregano, fennel, garlic, basil, lavender, rosemary or geraniums.
  • Place a little dish of pickle water outside. They love the salty taste, but sadly it will kill them,
  • If you can spare the beer, this works like salty water
  • Go on a night slug hunt. When you see a slug, pick it up and pop it in a bucket of salty water. It’s a fun activity for kids, especially boys.
  • Slugs love to dine on the brassica vegetables. Including, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. They also enjoy lettuce, strawberries, spinach, and courgette. For these seedlings, ring them with broken egg shells mixed with gravel or sand.
Slugs only like smooth surfaces, and this disturbs their path. This also works for Spring flowering plants including, marigold, pansy, petunia and sweet pea.
  • How about some chickens in the garden? Slugs are a tasty treat. To help birds find the slugs in the daytime, create a hiding place such as a piece of wood. Under the cover is where the slugs hide and when you lift it,  its Bon Appetit for the fowl and other birds.
Over the winter have you observed areas were the water has pooled in puddles? Is there evidence of poor drainage? Where there is natural runoff is the best place for a pond or drainage channel. Or, place water-loving plants such as lilies in this wet spot and add lots of organic mulch.
15 Benefits When You Have an All Year Gardening Journal
The first steps you need to take in your garden this Spring are those you do as you walk, observe and write down what you see. With All Year Gardening journalling, you’ll get to know your garden,  your successes, and challenges.
There are many things to write and place in your Journal.
  • Include plant labels, where and when the planting occurred.
  • Take photo’s of your first blooms for that particular plant.
  • Stick in seed packets and individual notes about planting.
  • Record un-seasonal weather events, date time, rainfall.
  • Record the first rain, last rain, dates of the frosts.
  • Add picture or sketches of poor drainage spots.
  • Add notes about your composting. If you need some advice about to get started, this is a useful article, All Year Gardening Composting.
  • Record when you fertilize, what you use, how much was applied and the results.
  • Write down where different species thrive, and others fail.
  • Use the journal as a place to create lists of tasks to do all year.
  • Buy a rain gauge and measure the moisture through the seasons.
  • Record planting dates for vegetables, companion plantings, and harvest highlight.
  • Paste favorite recipes from your seasonal harvest. Learn more about how to preserve your harvest here, 8 Ways to Preserve Your Harvest and Enjoy Your Produce All Year
  • Record how your garden makes you feel and do this for all of your seasons.
  • Write a poem, express how you feel.


A Garden Poem: My Garden Is My Sanctuary

© Marie Church 2011

As I look out to my garden
I feel a sense of pride
It really is a lovely room
Except it is outside.

Where lovely things mix and match
And greenery fills the walls
The sound of trickling water
Coming from the gold fish pond.

I love the sight of stones and rocks
And driftwood and tree ferns too
The sounds of all my chimes
I know you would like it too.

With pride, I walk around my garden
And savor each scent and smell
Colors of yellow, red and gold
Striped cushion on a bench.

The bird bath has its own domain
It’s placed beside a wooden arch
Where all the birds come to bathe
And drink when they are parched.

Ladybirds can hide away
Sometimes they come out to see
What’s happening around them
With caterpillars and the bees.

There’s not much more that I can say
Except if you have your own
It won’t take long to build it up
Seeds will bloom once they are sown.

                                                                   Source: Family Friend Poems.

Get to know your garden, and it will reward you in spades.