Remember March 1st? A bit chilly. Calm winds. Cloudy skies with a little snow towards the end of the day. Definitely lamb weather. And Sunday doesn’t look particularly lion-like. Though early spring weather is fickle, we count on April to be a more golden month. Don’t you find yourselves looking for any excuse to be outdoors in the early spring sunshine? It feels as though everything alive is aching to stretch- the length of the days, leaves on the trees, germinating seeds.
New lily bulbs can be planted directly into the garden unless your soil is still really wet. Try the chocolate cake method to know for sure. Pick up a handful of soil and gently squeeze it into a ball. Then poke your finger into the middle. If the ball breaks apart like chocolate cake, your soil is ready for planting. If your finger makes a squished hole, ala really gooey brownies, wait for another few, preferably dry, days.
You should wait to plant Gladiola bulbs until late April. Then throw in a handful every couple of weeks to extend the blooming period. Cool weather bulbs like Freesia, Anemone, and Ranunculus should be planted now as they need the cooler spring temperatures for flower development.
It’s too early to plant out your other summer-flowering bulbs such as Dahlia, Begonia, and Canna outside, but you can start them in pots, keeping them in the house where it’s warm. It’s okay to put the pots outside on warmer sunny days and bring them back in at night.
Be sure to do a thorough clean-up this spring of areas where you have fruiting plants. Rake away any old foliage and fruit, and finish your pruning. Add a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch to the root area. Studies show that a nice thick layer of wood mulch will greatly increase yields, so don’t skimp.
Fertilize fruiting trees and shrubs with a slow release, low nitrogen fertilizer before growth begins. And as long as your fruit tree buds haven’t broken open, it is okay to apply dormant oil sprays to prevent insect infestations. This product can smother any egg masses, reducing the hatch. Follow package instructions. If you had a problem with scab last year, apply a fungicide as soon as you notice green tips on the buds. Repeat after the petals fall and resume applying the treatment every 10-14 days. If the mid-summer is dry this year, you can stop spraying then.
Given last summer’s general fungal issues, lay in your stock of Serenade to combat the inevitable outbreak of powdery mildew. To prevent it from getting a toehold, apply to your ninebarks, lilacs, peonies, and serviceberry once petals have fallen from area crabapples. Serenade uses beneficial bacteria to control many fungal diseases. It’s available in both hand and hose-end sprayers, making it easier to treat larger plants.
Seed potatoes, onion sets, and spring garlic have arrived at the Garden Center and can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, usually in mid-April. Some of the common herb plants, like mint, parsley, and thyme, are in stock as well. Asparagus crowns are expected the week of April 8th.