GetOut & GrowApril chores

Published on Thu, Apr 6, 2006 by Doreen Trudel

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Get Out & Grow
April chores

By Doreen Trudel

April has arrived and after perusing the luscious seed catalogs and planning the perfect garden it is finally time to get our hands dirty. We are beginning the busiest season in the garden so our “to do” list is long and varied. The first thing to do in the garden is finish the clean-up from last year. It is easier to weed before this year’s growth gets in the way.
After clean-up it is time to spread compost or well rotted manure over the beds. Make sure you keep the manure from touching the base of plants and trees. Not only is that a vulnerable area on plants you want the nutrients to go to the feeding roots which are around the perimeter of the plants. Also be aware that mushroom manure is very alkaline so it should be used sparingly and it should not be used at all around acid loving plants such as Rhododendrons. Compost is truly the best product for your garden so if you don’t already have one start a compost bin now. The final step in preparing garden beds is applying a layer of mulch, keeping it away from the trunks of trees and the base of other plants.

For new gardeners here is a list of typical spring chores: divide or move perennials, plant summer blooming bulbs, stagger the planting of gladioli corms every week or two for a succession of blooms throughout the summer, feed spring bulbs after they bloom and let the leaves die back, do not cut or tie them. Finish pruning roses and feed them. You can plant hardy perennials, shrubs, roses and trees but wait until after the chance of frost (usually Mother’s Day) to plant tender perennials and annuals.

Finish pruning fruit trees and berry bushes, cover rhubarb with compost and mulch, prune perennial herbs including lavender, making sure to leave healthy leaf growth on the stems. Continue to sow seeds either indoors or out following guidelines on the seed packages. Now is the time to aerate and lime an existing lawn and depending upon the temperature it could be time to seed or sod a new lawn. Finally, if you plan to transplant a large shrub this year wait until fall to move it but root prune it now so new feeder roots can develop over the summer.
Check for slug damage on new shoots. Also watch for aphids especially on trees such as Blue Spruce. A strong spray of water will knock the aphids off and they will not return to the plant. Check again later for a new batch of aphids and repeat the water spray. Check for cut worms in the soil around young shoots that are being eaten. The worms are brownish grey and curl into a “c” shape and, like slugs, they feed at night.

If you are planning to introduce some new plants into your garden consider silver foliage plants which are frequently drought tolerant and provide an interesting contrast in a perennial bed. Some common silver leafed plants are; Lychnis (rose campion), Stachys (lamb’s ears) Helianthemum (rock rose) Helichrysum (curry plant), Santolina, Cynara (cardoon), Nepeta, Lavandula (lavender), Perovskia,

As we begin the planting season this is a good time to think about documenting your garden. A friend and fellow gardener, Laureen McCleary, recently shared her excellent method for staying organized in the garden. She keeps a separate index card for each type of plant she grows noting not only the name and variety or cultivar but the specific requirements such as feeding, pruning, bloom time, dividing time or any other details unique to that plant.

By cross referencing this information each season she knows exactly what chores need to be done and to which plant. Although I like the idea of index cards a computer file would also be handy.