Soil
Q.

Should I wait until spring before preparing the soil for a new garden?

Zone Toronto | Torontogardener added on August 13, 2018 | Answered

I recently moved into a new home. The front yard is entirely landscaped with smooth pebbles. I would like to replace it with a low maintenance garden of native plants. Should I wait until the spring to remove the stones and prepare the soil since I don’t think I’ll have time to plant anything before fall? Or do I remove the stones and prepare the soil now so that I can plant in the spring?

A.
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MichiganDot
Answered on August 14, 2018

This sounds exciting. Have you considered a rain garden as part of your native areas? Native plants don't need special soil prep although top-dressing with compost annually is nice. They tend to be floppy in soil that is too rich. Find a native plant supplier near you so you end up with plants that will do well in your region. Fall is a good time to plant but first you need to map out the garden so planting isn't a haphazard affair. Some natives are very aggressive in good garden soil so choose wisely. If interested in milkweed, for instance, go with swamp milkweed or butterfly weed instead of common milkweed. Interested in tall grasses: try silky rye instead of bottlebrush grass. Mix in some shrubs for variety. Remove plants only when you have something to put in its place. Bare spots are weed seed heaven! Take your time, plan well, source locally and work toward your goal. Many natives can be grown from seed but you should order this fall since many need pre-treatment before they will germinate. Native plants can take a couple years to get established. Keeping some current plants will leave the garden nice while your natives grow. Consider that there are many "alien" plants that are not invasive and are loved by pollinators. Lavender is one example. Plant in drifts of 5-7 plants: when bees and birds are flying over, they need to see enough food to make a stop worthwhile. Check out this resource: https://www.nativeplantnurseries.ca

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