It’s that time of year again. Time to uncover the garden, taking off any winter protection that I put on in late fall and see what’s happening with my plants.
Before I go any further I must explain that the winter of 2004/2005 was very very cold here, with very little snow cover. I had protected most of my plants with either a mound of soil (around roses), or a layer of leaves and we did put some burlap up around the plants in the back yard. It looks ugly, but hey, it’s usually covered in at least a foot of snow and it’s the backyard- who sees it but us and some of our neighbors right? That year I lost two roses in the front flower bed, and had to move a struggling climbing rose to the backyard or else it would have died as well. Most winters aren’t that harsh here in Toronto, but that one was particularly bad for my tender plants.
This past fall I was determined not to lose any plants. I think we kind of over did it. My husband gathered more than 50 bags of leaves from our neighbors. Actually I have no idea how many bags of leaves we used- I stopped counting at 50.
It’s very windy where we live. Year round. Why, I don’t know exactly, but just believe me- it’s windy. So, ever since I started planting tender roses in my yard I’ve tried to protect them from the harsh winter wind. We do this by attaching burlap to the fence behind the flower beds, then I put a mound of earth around my roses that is about a foot high, foot wide. After that we put at least a foot of leaves on the plants, and then we create a burlap fence at the front of each flower bed. I don’t wrap many of my plants, I just fence them in and give them a layer of protection.
This winter our plants had about 3 feet of leaves covering them- I kid you not! Of course it figures that this winter was so mild that we barely had to wear winter clothing.
Last Friday I went outside and took a good look at our well protected garden. All the roses survived, perhaps even thrived. Green stems and branches right to the tips! I’ll be starting out with roses this year that are four or five feet tall rather than having to cut down their frost damaged dead branches to within a foot of the ground as I usually do. They all have leaf buds and I believe, after looking at one rose closely yesterday that I might actually have tiny rose leaves on some by the end of the week. Unbelievable!
My first crocus’ were up last Friday too!
Yesterday I decided that the garden needed to be uncovered. I wanted to see what was under all those leaves. We started by taking down the burlap in the front yard- yes I burlapped the front last fall due to my rose loses. Ugly! It had to go, people were staring at my house.
I came up with the bright idea that we could gather all of the leaves that we had used and mulch them with the lawn mower, turn them into compost and put them back on the garden in a few months. Yeah ha ha. Just the leaves from the front, carefully put into two large garbage containers, pretty much covered the free space in our backyard. I think we had 7 or 8 large garbage containers of leaves on the front flower bed.
My husband being the good guy that he is went along with my scheme. As he always does. He did his best to mulch up the leaves from the front flower beds. I was able to put about half of them into our compost container.
Then we started uncovering the backyard. Outer layer of burlap came down and we surveyed the huge amount of leaves that we’d have to dispose of in some way or another. It is an extreme amount! We managed to uncover about a third of the back flower beds before we finally gave up.
A friend from work came over around 4:30 in the afternoon and ended up being our first garden visitor of the year. My husband being the social butterfly that he is, decided at 6:30 p.m. while we were still working in the backyard to call another friend from work to see if she and her husband wanted to come over and watch us. Now who would want to come over and watch two people move leaves around in their yard? I probably wouldn’t, but my hubby is a real charmer and they did come over around 7:30 p.m.. We were still working in the yard, in the dark when they arrived.
We have a very small backyard. It measures 17 feet wide, by 32 feet long. Our front yard is even smaller- you could probably fit our front yard into our backyard 10 times. Most of the backyard is taken up by a border of 3 and 4 foot deep flowerbeds and a 20 square foot patio. There isn’t much lawn, but what lawn there was was covered in at least 2 feet of leaves when our friends arrived, and the flowerbeds still had a good coating of leaves on them as well. I greeted them with “Welcome to Fall!” because it certainly doesn’t look like spring in our yard anymore, it looks like autumn. I’ll try to take a picture of it today before we start trying to clear out all the leaves.
I have no idea what to do with all the leaves. We can mulch them and perhaps put some back on the garden, turning them into the soil so that they can compost right in the ground. We can also mulch some and put them in those two great big garbage containers we have and hope they decompose in there too, or slowly add them to our compost pile when it goes down a bit. I still think we are going to have to get rid of at least half the leaves, which means putting them in yard waste bags. Trouble is that the city doesn’t start taking away yard waste until April 11th. We’ll have a long row of bags lining our narrow driveway until then. Hmmm maybe if we mulch up all the leaves our neighbors will take back some of their leaves and use them on their gardens too?
The exciting news is that under all of these leaves I found tulip and daffodil leaves. Some of the growth was almost a foot high! My tulips and daffodils don’t usually come up until sometime in April and don’t bloom until near the end of April or early May and continue on until mid-June or so. Between the leaves already starting to come out on my roses and my head started spring flowers we are going to have a spectacularly beautiful spring.
Garden stats: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Zone 6, USDA zone 5b, backyard- southern exposure, front yard – northern exposure. Small garden with over 2500 spring and early summer flowering bulbs, 60+ roses, 400+ perennials. 200+ annuals and vegetable are planted each year as well.