Easy No-Fail Spring Gardening Tips

Ready to get gardening? Here, inspiration and tips from gardening gurus to make the most of your outdoor space this season.


According to Charlie Dobbin, Canada Bloom’s horticulture director, it’s important to fix your soil first.

“Remember the old adage – the key to growing a great plant is to put a 50-cent specimen in a $5 hole. It’s no lie. Take the time to add organic matter to your gardens every year. Triple mix, homemade compost, even mulched leaves in the fall – all provide excellent soil-building qualities. About half  an inch every year is best.”  —Vivian Vassos


One way to add instant all-year greenery is to go faux. Boxwood, in particular, looks just like the real thing, in hedges, columns and topiaries. Hedge, $130, HomeSense.


Gardening guru Marjorie Harris publishes her 17th book, this one featuring two of her favourite subjects. Thrifty Gardening From the Ground Up (Anansi) combines the 70-something’s trademark straight-talking wit with a generous helping of her best budget-friendly advice for making the most of your outdoors – even container gardening for empty nesters and down-sizers with balconies – for less.

“A permanent resident,” she writes, “sees the balcony not only as a challenge to make gorgeous but also as a way to grab more living space. Going from a garden on the ground into a condo or apartment, however, is something no one can quite prepare you for. It’s certainly up there with the seismic shifts life can dish out.”

Just like a backyard space, Harris advocates starting with a plan and “a sense of the future of the space” – and, most importantly, being realistic about your budget. Keep in mind that your balcony garden will also be your focal point view, so before a major cash output, try this tip from Thrifty Gardening: “Mock up a plant (or structure) in cardboard and prop it up outside,” Harris advises. Then go back inside, sit down and get a sense of whether it works for you and your view. You only need to do this with bigger, more structured plants, she adds.

Once you’re satisfied, start measuring the whole space and ensure that you’ve covered off all the bases: seating, dining and plant containers all have to share said balcony. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, “go simple,” says Harris. “Be elegant.”  —VV


When we think of England, many of us may think of the rose, but Crabtree & Evelyn is celebrating the English daisy with its limited-edition collection. The connection to the garden is bred in the bone here: John Evelyn, one of the company’s namesakes, was himself a botanist who spent much of his life traversing the globe in search of the rare and exotic plants that continue to inform the company’s key ingredients and recipes today. Gardener’s manicure set, $20  —VV


Gardening grandparents wanting to pass on their passion can furnish the grandkids with their own equipment. Lee Valley Tools’ new Radius Junior line offers a compact spade and rake, sized for the little ones to help out – and they’re not made from your garden-variety plastics. Lightweight resin-encased Fiberglass handles and a paddle-style grip make for easy manipulation. But these tools are also ideal for adults working in the garden while kneeling or seated and for tending raised beds. Rake, $17. www.leevalley.com  —Tara Losinski


A version of this story was originally published in April 2012.