Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Care of Perennials

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Spring Care of Perennials (I have added a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"The frost is out of the ground now and it is time for the gardens to begin to wake up and start growing. Here are a few tips for you to get your garden off to a good start. The first garden chore is to clean them of winter debris and any dead plant parts we left there from last fall. Cut to the ground all dead plant stems that remain in the garden. Pull all weeds, moss and grasses that survived the winter between plants. Think "Spring Cleaning for a Better Summer Garden." Once all cleaned, it is time to cut a new edge around the garden. Why?, you may ask-- because it will make the edge of the garden look better, it will be easier to mow the grass, and most important, the edge will keep the grass from your lawn out of the garden. Spreading grasses like common blue grass spread with underground rhizomes and stems; if you have an edge, the grass from the lawn is less likely to move into the garden.

A clean garden soil will warm up faster with the sun and that means earlier plant growth. Now sprinkle Preen granules or Corn Gluten evenly on the soil of the garden. This is a pre-emergence weed control; once the granular product dissolves with rain, it will form a skin or barrier on the soil preventing weeds from growing for the entire season. Think about that: no weeds to pull all summer long. Also, apply your garden fertilizer now and sprinkle evenly like you apply salt to an icy walk way during the winter. Use Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica.

If you see moss growing in the lawn you may want to lime the garden to counter the acidity. I love Jonathan Green Mag-I-Cal lime substitute, as one 40 pound bag will do the same as ten fifty pound bags of lime and it works in 2 weeks instead of 6 months. If the soil is wet or has standing water, spread the garden soil and lawn area with garden gypsum to improve drainage and prevent root rot. .

To help cut back on watering of the garden I always add 2 inches of compost  over the weed preventer. If you do this now, you can just dump the compost right on top of the garden and rake it evenly over the entire garden. All the plants are dormant and raking will not hurt them. You can even walk on the garden and not hurt anything planted. If you wait until May to add mulch or compost, you will have to do this work by hand, so as not to damage newly sprouting plants emerging from the ground. Doing it now will save you many hours of labor later.

If you are planning to divide perennials, wait until they are just poking through the compost or mulch. It will be easier to divide plants properly when young, and without damaging the root system. Remember some plants are not ready until early May, so be patient. This is also the best time to move hybrid lilies, but dig deep as the bulb should be at least 6 inches deep in the ground. Do not add new plants to the garden until you are sure all existing plants are up and visible. If you have spring flowering bulbs, do not move them until they have finished flowering and the foliage has turned brown. That is usually 6 to 8 weeks after blooming.

Early sprouting perennial plants have a greater chance of rabbits and deer damage than later sprouting plants. Skillin's has a number of great deer repellents. I have found granular Milorganite spread around the garden every couple of weeks to be an excellent deterrent.  Fresh green plants make a tasty meal for these animals and they're not "SHY" or "FUSSY", so get ready!"

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