Things to Look For in the Spring | Home Maintenance


SPROING numero deux

No really. Honestly. It's Spring! I have the tulips coming up in my front flower bed to prove it!

Welcome to the second installment of "Things to look for in the spring".

Some of you have been asking, so I'm telling! Here's what we'll cover:

  • Watch your taps!
  • My cedars have turned brown. What do I do?
  • Can I prune my trees now?
  • When do I get to mow my lawn?
  • When can I start digging in the garden?
  • Do I have to wait until the Mothers day long weekend before I can plant anything?
  • How come that loonie I planted last fall isn't growing yet? (I thought that in Alberta, money grew on trees?!)

Winter's harsh dude (and dudettes!).

Frozen TapBe careful when you turn outside taps on in the spring. If you forgot to take the hose off your outside taps, or turn it off from the inside, there is a chance that the pipes have frozen and cracked. Always turn the tap on just a bit, and then go inside to check for leaks. You've spent a whole bunch of time fixing your gutters, downspouts and grading. Right?! Now is not the time to flood your basement because of a leaky tap or broken pipe. If it is broken, now's a great time to install the proper self draining tap.


Here's the fix, as long as you take the hose off come fall!

Spring can be harsher!

In the fall, plants get ready for winter. They hunker down for subzero weather, wind, and snow storms. Once frozen in, hardy plants can weather most conditions.

Nothing is harder on plants than the freeze and thaw wake up in spring. Evergreens especially are susceptible to damage at this time of year. Warm air temperatures and sun get the leaves and needles of the plant working away, but with the ground still frozen, they can't get any water. That, if combined with a deep frost after they have shaken off their winter protection can really hurt them.

If you've covered your less hardy evergreens with mulch or a burlap screen, don't remove it until well after danger of frost has passed, which seems to have been a long time this year!

If you do see brown areas on your evergreens, this means that damage has occurred. While I have sometimes seen brown branches on cedars resprout leaves, it probably means that the branches will have to be pruned out. Cedars, even in the microclimate that is the city of Edmonton, are still marginal plants. Mostly started in much warmer climes, they can have trouble with our Alberta winters, at least until they get well established.

Brown Cedars

No pruning for you!

Now is not the time to be pruning, as most trees in Edmonton are actively growing. Pruning now can actually damage your trees. Wait until later on in the summer to do anything other than remove dead material.

For more information on where, when and how to prune here's a great article about pruning in Edmonton.

Caring for the green:

Everything is somewhat fragile in the spring. Plants, including your grass, have been pretty beaten up by winter weather, and they need some time to wake up before regular maintenance can happen. Just like people, they need a long cup of tea and a stare out the window to wake up fully! Grass is pushing out fresh new baby roots at this time of year. Raking can damage these new roots and set your grass back. You shouldn't be raking up the detritus from winter until the ground has unfrozen and dried out a bit.

Snowy Edge -

If, when you walk on it, the ground feels a bit squishy, you shouldn't be raking! Try poking a finger into the soil. Does it feel wet? Then wait a little longer.

Grass is a living, growing thing, and needs to be treated with respect! The last thing you want is a stressed out lawn. It will take its revenge by becoming weed filled, lumpy, brown and generally unattractive.

Unless you're growing a special low growing variety of grass, don't mow your grass until it's about 3" to 3 1/2" long. The best height for typical lawns is 2" to 2 1/2" long. This gives a great balance between shading of its roots to prevent water loss, and looks. Trimming more than 1/3 of the leaf length at any mowing causes the grass stress. This might mean mowing a little more often when it's growing actively, but less when it is not growing so fast.

Leave your clippings on the lawn when you mow. This Grasscycling allows the nutrients in the clippings to return to the soil. It also helps to retain water and protect the roots against drought.

Grasscycling - City of Edmonton

How does your Garden grow?

Many people spend a whole bunch of time over the winter planning their veggie gardens, buying seeds, and getting excited about finally getting out and mucking about in the garden. For those who enjoy it, nothing beats spending time in the garden, especially when it results in lots of fresh vegetables to eat.

Treat your soil with care. Working it too early can break down its structure and cause it to become compacted and hard for plants to grow in. Like raking your grass, wait until it is dry enough before you start to work it.

Spring is a great time to add amendments to your garden and lawn. Compost, Peat Moss and other additions to your soil can help it grow great plants and vegetables. The University of Alberta Farm gives away free compost, by the way. Just bring your buckets, truck or trailer, and a shovel for loading.

WhencanIplant? WhencanIplant?

The quick answer is: earlier than you think for many plants.

The magical Mothers Day Weekend is really just a weekend timed nicely so that the seeds you plant that weekend will be ok until the last day of frost in the Edmonton area, on average May 27. Many things, such as spinach, peas and carrots can be planted way before that date. Some really enthusiastic gardeners will sow the seeds on the snow. They get to have fresh garden greens really early! You just need to be wary of frost, and cover things up if there is going to be a hard frost or cold blast of weather.

Flowering plants like snap dragons, pansies and lobelia can be planted out early too. They're pretty frost tolerant, but, having lived most of their lives in a greenhouse before you purchased them, should be watched for a week or so until they get hardened off.

Some plants, especially beans and squashes, shouldn't be seeded until the soil has really warmed up. Planting them earlier can actually cause them to delay their germination.

For more information on when to plant your garden, Here is a great article from Prairie Gardens.

As for that Loonie, sorry about that. The money that grows here was planted a really long time ago, and is generally deeper than you can reach with a shovel. At least one that's not attached to a 100 ton, 4200 HP piece of equipment!

If you have any questions about getting your home or yard ready for summer, or would like me to give it a look see, from the top of the roof to the bottom of the foundation, you can contact me at

Happy greening!

Mitch Waldon is the owner and operator of Waldon Works Ltd. Inspection Services. Mitch offers home and property inspection services in Edmonton and surrounding areas.

Learn more about Mitch Waldon