February 2014: Early Spring in the Garden, Lawn Alternatives (Sheep’s Fescue and Dutch White Clover)

I do not pay much attention to the Groundhogs’ weather forecast, but prefer to leave my options open and trust the meteorologists plus local coastal climatic influences.

A few weeks ago it was like March, this week looks to be frigid. The temptation to do things too early is hard to resist, however there is nothing wrong with tidying things up a bit to allow for the early Spring – and I mean February to March for a plant, even if the calendar makers disagree – and once there are several frost-free days with calm weather then the garden can be prepped for the Spring glory: dormant oil if you do that, rose pruning, fruit tree pruning if not already done, and so on.

February is also when I tend to get excited about new seeds. This year it is a different kind of seed: Vancouver Island is basically one big rock in the ocean, washed out over winter and baked in the high summer, with geologically young and thin soils that are often acid. Lawn “care” can become a vicious circle of feeding, watering, cutting, weeding, praying, crying and so on, only to end up with a soggy patch of mud or dust-blown sand pit (having both is a real treat, and implies your soil needs to flocculate: see below*). I plan to be trying new projects involving alternatives to traditional lawn seed mixtures by overseeding without digging over an old lawn: Sheep’s Fescue in place of those hungry and thirsty usual Fescues, Dutch White Clover mixed in to add diversity and nitrogen-fixing service for the soil (and nectar for the bees), plus allowing native small-flowering herbs to survive in the lawn. Note: Liming is often still needed for those sandy acid soils to help adjust pH as well as flocculate the soil (*please do look this term up as it is essential to creating good soil). High hopes? No harm trying as nothing stands still in the garden.

It was sleeting just now outside the window, and I have just ordered seeds from a nursery in southern BC (Cristina Lake) as well as from a local seed producer. The Cyclamen are flowering under the Walnut tree and the Snowdrops attempting their best: I had better go and see them now.