April showers bring May flowers! It’s an age old expression but it rings true for all of us who have been waiting out this long winter for a hint of green on the ground. April is also the month that we celebrate Earth Day and one great way to honor this day, is to plant a garden that is friendly to bees and butterflies.
Yes, it’s time to plant!
To prepare, first clear away that last bit of debris with a rake and broom. Consider taking out or uncovering any plants that were put away over the winter. If you have any in a cold frame, let the sunshine in and remember to cover them at night just in case a frost occurs.
If you are starting fresh with seeds, remember to read the packages carefully and choose seeds that are younger and fresher. If you are planting vegetables, the trend this year is to choose organic seeds. Remember to check your soil. Topdress according to the label and add a layer of fresh compost. Wait until it warms a bit before putting down mulch.
One simple trick that can help is to add crushed egg shells to your compost for the soil. They are chock full of calcium carbonate which if beneficial to your plants. A woman in New Jersey used that trick to save an old rose bush in her back yard. It came back to life and full bloom within one season.
If the ground is still frozen or unworkable, you can begin with potting some violas or pansies. Of course, now would be the perfect time to prune some of those dead branches and leaves too. Also look ahead and plan for groundcover to fill in the spacing between your flowers.
Feed bulbs, (including garlic!) with an organic fertilizer labeled for them as green shoots get up and growing. After they flower, deadhead the spent flowers only, but let the foliage wither on its own. This is how bulbs feed themselves so don’t cut off the greens until they die back, approximately least 6 weeks later. Tender bulbs like cannas, callas, tuberous begonias, dahlias get a head start if potted up indoors now, then transplanted after all frost danger passes.
Consider keeping a journal to record planting and blooming times, your successes and failures with certain plants and to keep track of your seeds and technique.
TIP: An easy way to keep your fingernails clean after gardening is to run your nails into a bar of soap before gardening and after gardening use a nail brush to remove the soap.
Remember that gardening is a wonderful family tradition for many. If you have children, consider including them in this seasons planting. Remember to take pictures of your garden for Facebook and show it off to your friends.
As always, have fun. Happy Gardening!
February has arrived and it is and has been cold, and no doubt you're eagerly envisioning and awaiting springtime and planning what work you'll do to invigorate the solid earth and wake up your property for the growing season. In fact, you may even see a few buds during warmer days (and if you do, cover them and protect them). None of the above foresight is a mistake, but ignoring the benefits of winter gardening and preparation just might be. This being said, below are some mid-winter basics to get an early jump on the spring.
* How are your tools? Steady use and overuse during the growing season, and laying on the ground or propped against a wall for storage during colder months = unusable rusty tools. Okay, maybe not literally rusty, but check out your tools and make sure all are ready for use, you'll need them soon. Clean them off, sharpen dull blades, and replace what needs to be replaced. You'll be glad you did, and not just to render them operational. Using tools that are in bad shape could cause injury.
* Order your year-round seeds now. Yes, year-round. Early purchase means more to choose from, there may be bonuses and discounts available, and shopping time is saved (one trip instead of two or more).
* If the winter has been a dry one (aka low snowfall, especially), irrigate your garden area. If there are restrictions that must be followed in your area, adhere to them, but water your garden bed and lawn as well as you can.
* Start thinking about replacing your mulch.
Okay, now to your shrubs and soil
* The key word right now, of course, is preparation, and sometimes that means paring away dead branches and other former growth from outdoor plants and shrubs. The expectations here are plants and trees that will soon blossom. Be careful: cutting the wrong thing will eliminate the bloom in spring. Forsythia is one shrub that should be pruned later in the season. Also, when pruning bear in mind that the process is not only to remove dormancy but also for proper plant air circulation and reception of sunlight.
* Transplant and feed deciduous shrubs and trees, maybe even placing fresh mulch around the base. Fertilization would be wise here as well, especially for Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Conifers, and Evergreens. Read instructions carefully on the package. There are different types of fertillizer for a variety of shrubs and trees.
* Plant seeds and vegetables so they'll be ripe and ready for the season, but do so under covering to protect the planting from the still what-should-be-harsh climates of winter.
What to plant
* If you're growing vegetables, the list of eligibles may be bigger than you think. Broccoli, lettuce, onions, peppers and tomatoes are a go, and so are fresh herbs like basil and oregano. For the tomatoes and peppers, you may wish to plant initially indoors and, when the weather warms, move what has grown to an outside spot you've reserved just for them. Also, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are a good bet for planning outdoors. Eliminate any canes from last year and start fresh.
* As for plants, the bulbs you plant will bear summer and fall blossom. Perennials include canna, spider and white calla lilies, gladiolas and more. From seeds, you can start both in and outdoors and popular choices here includes chrysathemums and delphiniums. If planting annuals, start seeding in February and see them bloom in April or May. Soil conditions is very important. If solid, plant inside first and transplant when thaw occurs. Carnations, marigolds, larkspurs should be high on your list.
Aesthetics and extras
* Begin to repair and paint window boxes.
* If you've been feeding birds or wish to start, continue feeding them or start anew by buying a feeder. A birdhouse is optional, but it would be a nice addition. Birds bring a little color and activity to your placid parcel of land and, perhaps more importantly, will feed on insects prior to insects feeding on your veggies and plants, which would negate your hard work.
* February does have an occasional warm day, so be prepared to head outside if need be.
Your prosperous garden a few weeks hence will thank you!
It's "doorstep" time. You've stepped out of the chill of February and have met March. Although the weather is tricky (you know, that "in like a lion, out like a lamb" thing?), true warm weather is just around the bend, and so is the bloom and growth of what you may (or should) have planted in February.
Here are your next steps.
Follow-up and current tasks
* If you didn't take our "Before Planting" advice in February's Sprouting Ideas , better late than never. Get to work now-and early in March is best- prepping tools and purchasing supplies. It's still early enough to be ahead of the game, but to do it, get started.
*Complete (if you haven't already) all bush and tree pruning where appropriate, especially rose bushes. Prune all frost damage from fruit trees.
*Remember last month when you started thinking about replacing your mulch? Well, now you begin replacing it slowly, but do so towards the end of March, therefore not "shocking" the re-awakeing ground too soon.
* Remove any weeds that may have sprouted, but pull them gently, and do it now before they become a nuisance. Do not till the soil and bed; last year's bulbs or seeds underground may still be useful this year.
* Re-pot (if necessary) houseplants and begin spring feeding.
What you'll be planting
* Veggies first. Beets are high on the list, as are broccoli (if you didn't plant in February), cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, melons, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, shallots, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. Looking to try something new (and it's always good to try this)? How about potatoes? Easy to do and the end result is very healthy. Purchase some compost and potato bags and fill the bags slightly with the compost. When green shoots are evident cover again with compost and do this until you have a full bag while continuing to water them. When summer hits-Viola!- potatoes in the bag! Also, those herbs you need for cooking (think oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme) that you may not have planted last month are doable now.
* Okay, now to flowers and plants, and all are a beauty to behold. For your landscape, consider Bergenia (there's many species to choose from) and Sweet Peas as well as Crocus and Snowdrops. Fertilize around the bases if necessary. Other plants include daffodils, lilies and tulips, as well as roses. As for houseplants, begin fertilizing as daylight increases and prepare to transplant. *Note: when purchasing a houseplant from a garden center, avoid those with root systems coming out of the bottom. Also, keep a keen eye out for insects invading the plants. Nothing will dampen a spirit more then a healthy plant being feasted on.
* Sow seeds for annual plants like marigolds and zinnias indoors under lighting now, and also plant or (if need be) transplant perennials.
* March is also a good month to plant new fruit trees, like the ever and very popular cherry blossom. Evergreens are also nice.
*Check (if you have it) outdoor garden furniture or decoration for rot or mold. If present, treat it, and treat as well garden fencing, sheds and trellis with preserver. The heat from the prior spring and summer, and the winter cold, can beat up the before- mentioned over time.
There's no turning back now. Spring is here. Starting in April, you'll see how all of your hard work to this point is bearing fruit.
We know you know that, but we want to make sure you hear it as well. Because this means your ground has thawed, and the exiting chill of winter makes way for warm climes.
It’s time to prepare your garden for beautification, and April is a key month. For the experienced and even novice gardener, here are some basic tips to shake off both your and your garden’s rust:
- We’ll start here with two nice ideas. First, pair your garden with a birdhouse. Feathered friends add beauty to the garden by bringing additional color, and feast on insects that seek to lounge or live on the flora. Second, celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, April 26th by planting a tree, knowing that future generations will benefit.
- Give your lawn a good raking, removing anything – twigs, rocks, weeds, etc – that has “lived” under the winter snow. It’s time for your acre of earth, which will offset your garden nicely, to “breathe” again. Not only that, no skipping of stones and branches. Your lawnmower and kneecaps will thank you!
And as for April flowers…
- Act now and for the future. Some flowers planted in April (lavender, strawflowers) can also be dried for winter arrangement decorations.
- Go with annuals like cosmos, marigold and zinnia. Each serves a purpose beyond their beauty. Cosmos seed often re-germinate every spring, marigolds are tiny and control garden roundworms, and the flowers of the zinnia are long-lasting.
Start your Perennial garden. Perennials offer the best value. Plant them once and they will be back for years to come...bigger and better. April is perfect for Aquilegia, Salvia, Phlox, Violas and Dianthus. Tons of color to incorporate with your annuals.
- Prune shrubs like forsythia and the stalks of flowering bulbs as the flowers begin to fade to keep the natural beauty but also to aid future growth.
Next month, we’ll have more advice as your plant roots take firm hold and your garden heads into summer!