Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April Gardening Tips

The birds are singing, the Crocuses are blooming, kids are riding their bikes and my mailbox is full of glossy plant catalogues, it must be spring. If your green thumb is itching, here are some tips to get your garden ready:
This spring is much wetter than last year, which essentially is good for the plants, but as you go about your spring clean up tasks avoid the soggy areas. Excessive traffic on a wet lawn can cause poor aeration, one of the reasons ‘Rolling lawns’ in the spring is no longer a preferred practice.

The best way to keep weeds out of your lawn is to keep your lawn grass healthy. Tune up your mower (sharpen the blades so they don’t tear the grass), rake, fertilize and apply limestone every three years. Add some limestone to your Lilacs (Syringa) and Lavendar (Lavandula) too.

Begin removing mulch from your perennial beds, and gently cut back any remaining perennial husks, you may be surprised at how many new sprouts are starting already. If you are using mulch to protect tender plants keep the mulch down a bit longer, the days are warm but it is still dropping into 30’s in the evening.

Start your vegetable garden with spinach, lettuce, carrots and radish seeds. If you have not grown vegetables before, consider growing your vegetables in containers, which can be more easily monitored and work your way up to a dedicated plot.
Prune rose canes; you should be able to determine the ‘dead areas’ now, start by cutting back to a live bud on the green area (live cane) Apply 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Consider increasing your shrub border and reducing lawn area. A well-designed shrub border can provide 4-season interest with less maintenance and less water us than a typical lawn.

Check your Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis and Tsuga caroliniana) for the wooly adelgid. Look along the underside of branches for fluffy white matter. These are the eggs. If you find some on your trees you can treat with Horticultural oils (which are safe for humans and wildlife) on dry days when the weather is over 45’, or consult a certified arborist.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in ‘Questions for Cory’, keep those great questions coming. I will try my best to answer those questions here.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for an easy to grow fruit that my kids will enjoy? They don’t eat many vegetables but I want to grow something we can all enjoy.
A. Try Strawberries and Blueberries both are relatively easy to grow and pest free, except for the birds and animals that will try to eat them. Strawberries can be easily grown in containers, and plants can be treated as annuals or as a multi-year crop. Lowbush Blueberries (Vaccinum angustifolium) grow wild all over New England and grow less than a foot tall, but produce very sweet little berries. Highbush Blueberries (Vaccinum corymbosum) are also native, but the hybrids and cultivars (ranging in height from 4’ to 12’) produce much sweeter berries than the wild shrubs. The hardest thing about growing blueberries is keeping away the birds until harvest, netting helps and truly the fruit tastes best when allowed to ripen fully on the bush.

Q. I put some bulbs in my garage last fall and somehow forgot that they had not gone into the ground. Any suggestions as to what I should do with them at this point? The box appears to be “growing” a bit!
A. This happens more often than you would expect! If you have left over bulbs, which did not get planted, first check them to see if they are still viable. A healthy bulb should feel firm and fleshy like an onion or head of garlic. If it feels mushy or light and dry then they did not survive. Plant the survivors in old terra cotta pots and place them in a cool, dark area to encourage root growth for a few weeks, then move them into sun to encourage blooming or plant directly in your garden.