Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April (Early April) Garden Talks

Hello again,

Last year as I wrote Early April Garden Talks there was still much snow on the ground with more to follow in April. There is NO snow in Skillin's Country right now-not even in the northern reaches.

 Following are a few good garden tips for this time of year. As always shoot us any garden questions to skillins@maine.rr.com or also contact us via phone or, of course, come in to see us! Contact information can be found at http://www.skillins.com/!

*Many lawn areas have dried well enough to give your lawn a solid raking. Some shady and low areas may still be wet and squishy. IF that is the case then do not rake yet. But The first step toward a healthy lawn every Spring is to give your lawn a vigorous raking. Much dead grass will be pulled out--this allows precious sun and air into your ground and between your remaining grass blades. Your lawn will love this warm sun and air and will soon begin to push out new healthy growth to fill in where you raked out!

*If you have not done so yet,  get out and pick up fallen branches and other debris on the lawn. Bend and stretch!

*Mostly because of my schedule I still have not pulled all my mulch off my perennials and from around my roses. That is okay. It is still early in the game. I normally have this task of pulling a little mulch off one day and then some more soon after well under way. I am hoping to pull my perennial mulch or cover of fir boughs (many people use straw) in a few more days.

I just LOVE seeing my perennials starting to peek back at me as they begin to emerge from the soil and their winter slumber. Truth be told, seeing my old friends on their early Spring rebound may be my favorite time of the whole year!

*My Dad, David Skillin has his peas started in the ground. April 1 is when he does this! The last two years at this time I had peas started in some old pots full of Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine. I think I will be doing this again soon as well as plunking some pea seeds down in front of my rose bushes facing the southeast. This becomes a hot spot starting in about June but maybe I can get some fast pea production early in the season and then fill in with some hot weather lovers like basil later this year! Peas, spinach, swiss chard and celery are all good early season candidates in the ground. Speaking of vegetable garden ponderings....

*Years ago, Barbara Damrosch in her gardening classic, "The Garden Planner", (sold right here at Skillin's) made several fundamental points about Vegetable Gardening that we all should heed, whether we are newcomers to Vegetable Gardening or not. And here they are:

**What type of vegetables to grow? The first criterion should be your appetite and that of the people you live with. But do keep in mind a vegetable garden is a golden opportunity to try the new and unfamiliar.

**Take our climate into account.In the northeastern USA, we have no problems with cool-weather crops such as broccoli, peas, lettuce and cabbage. Ask your neighbors what grows well for them or check with us here at Skillin's!

**How big a garden? The most common mistake made by new and old gardeners is that they plant too much. Either the upkeep overwhelms them and much of the garden succumbs to weeds, bugs or drought or the harvest is too bountiful, and they cannot keep up with the picking, let alone the eating and preserving. You will probably find it more fun and rewarding to start small. Remember less can often be more!

*Choose a site that receives lots of sun and drains well. Trees can be cut to let in more sun and we at Skillin's have plenty of natural products to help your soil!

**Try to start with a sketch of your vegetable garden plot to make the buying of seeds and starter crops and the ultimate planting more efficient.

*One of my favorite beautiful flowering plants is the dahlia. Dahlias grow from tubers and their color combinations can be stunning! Dahlias are a slow starter. Well, now is the time to start dahlias in peat pots or the new Cow Pots! Peat or cow pots can then be plunged into the ground or into a larger container outdoors around June 1 without harming the roots of your growing plant. The peat pot will eventually decompose and the root system of your plant will reach easily into the new soil. A word of warning: many chain stores sell paper (not peat) pots to start plants. Such paper pots do not decompose and therefore your plants root system may not be able to expand properly! For a few weeks we have been selling tuberous begonias. Just like dahlias it is also time to start tuberous begonias in peat pots. (If you have not started your tuberous begonias yet you are not alone; I have not started mine either. Do not fear! It is not too late!)

*Later this month (think mid month) after you have your lawn and perennial garden raked out and cleaned of debris, is a great time to apply all natural Corn Gluten both to your open areas between your established perennials and also as a natural fertilizer for your lawn. Corn Gluten will help block weed seed from germinating in your perennial bed and your lawn. The gardening time saved by suppressing weed seed early in the season is just invaluable later on. We sell corn gluten right here at Skillin's.

Finally after the perennial garden is cleaned up is a great time to cast some all natural Flower Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica around your perennial garden. I recommend twice yearly feedings of such good natural fertilizers and right after the garden is cleaned up is a great time for Application #1.

*Speaking of feeding established plants, April is a great time to get some fertilizer down around your bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus and alliums that are active and pushing out all that growth. Use a thin stake and make some holes just a few inches from your growing bulbs. Fill those holes with a good natural fertilizer like Bulb Tone by Espoma. The growing bulbs will soon grab the nutrients supplied by the Bulb Tone and use those nutrients to build strength for better performance in the coming years.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 3, 2012

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