Once the ground is workable, it is time to get started in your garden. There is plenty to do and no time to waste.
By Chris Cohan
Once the ground is workable, it is time to get started in your garden. There is plenty to do and no time to waste. Throw open the garage door. Observe the hibernating accoutrement du jardin. Take inventory: gloves, leaf bags, leftover fertilizer, suntan lotion, and hand cream to start. Drag out the watering cans, wheelbarrow, and hoses. Sharpen, tighten, and oil up your tools. Strap on your secateurs.
April begins the season of hope and anticipation. Warmer days can invariably be followed by frosty nights. Make sure sober judgment trumps exuberance. If spring is taking its time, then proceed with caution. A key sign to watch for is if marsh marigolds are slow to bloom, then you too should be slow to rake away mulch or expose many plants.
Even if spring is delayed, you can keep busy pruning. Prune all dead and damaged wood from trees and shrubs. Complete all fruit tree pruning before bud break. Clip rosebushes by a third; remove all dead and weak canes from ramblers and climbers. Prune Annabelle hydrangeas to 18” above ground. Follow with pruning to shape all other white flowering hydrangeas. Trim Caryopteris and Spirea back by half.
I never understand why some folks do not prune butterfly bushes way back. Their root systems are unable to sustain overgrown bushes. They tend to topple over. Many can be seen with Rube Goldberg-esque staking. Pruning will invigorate the plant and reward you with vibrant butterfly-attracting flowers.
Before buds break and tiny leaves unfold, apply dormant oil spray. This is the single best preventative action to ensure a healthy garden. Unless you are one of those anti-vaccination types, then roll the dice.
Lilac and clematis require lime. Work lime four inches deep into soil and in an 18-inch radius. Lilacs grow better if grass is removed from base. Remember, only prune lilac right after blooming to ensure those fragrant flowers continue.
Add some lawn fertilizer or rotted manure around rhubarbs. This is the time to divide and spread out fall blooming perennials like Japanese anemone, asters, mums, and balloon flower. Give catmint a buzz cut, clip weathered Liriope leaves to stubs and be merciless with gangly Montauk daisies.
If broadleaf evergreens like rhododendron and azalea look yellow, treat with a fertilizer that has chelated iron, aluminum sulfate, or other acidifying agent. The culprit is usually the salt many homeowners use to melt ice, which eventually makes its way to plant roots. Salt neutralizes acid in soil. This could be a cause of your plants yellowing. Stop using salt and start using a snow shovel.
Start your lawn-care program. First, clean lawn of overwintered leaves and thatch. Rake any bare or weak patches. Access winter and pest damage; treat appropriately and then prepare for reseeding. If your lawn has many weak and bare patches it is time to renovate or replace the lawn. Bluegrass is best for sun and bent grass for shade. There are excellent grass seed mixes to buy. Avoid cheap seeds as they are a waste of time and effort.
Jump-start your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Demand that your landscaper use a mulching mower. Request that he/she only use natural and environmentally safe products on your lawn and garden; there are many to choose from and they are competitively priced. This is much better than using chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. The switch makes sense for our environment, the health of your children, pets, and you.
Alas, this year, the luck of the Irish was not with Michael Zotzmann, one of Rye’s extraordinary gardeners; he was unable to get his peas in by St. Patrick’s Days because of the snow cover. Nevertheless, he soldiered on. Michael is going full throttle with all of his other gardening efforts. That reminds me, I better get crackin’ with my garden chores as well.