Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April (Late April) Garden Talks

Hello again,

Well what a difference a year makes! In my Late April 2011 post I was no longer writing about melting snow (I did that for weeks in Spring 2011) BUT I was talking about cool temperatures and very frequent rains.

Okay....As I write this post and edit the garden comments Skillin's Country has just received a major outpouring of rain. To my chagrin, I just found the Official Skillin's Country Rain Gauge had cracked and therefore had no reading. SO, I will have to rely on the official metorological report.

Let me say without hesitation the days of April 22 and 23, 2012 brought HEAVY amounts of rain to a very dry Skillin's Country. I am sure we had MUCH runoff but I am just as sure our ground is now soaked. That is great--our lawns and plants of all sized will use this rain well. Perennials and shrubs will explode in growth! Trees will leaf out! And our lawns (especially those cared for by the Skillin's Lawn Program) will turn a rich, rich green!

*Our gardens are growing and taking shape. You may be looking at your established layout and decide you want to change some of your design. Now is an excellent time to transplant perennials and many shrubs. Most plant growth is minimal as the roots are just getting started so that means less transplanting shock for the new transplants.

The ground is wet and that will help to hold the soil around the roots better, preventing the small feeder roots from being damaged during the move. When you replant into the new garden, be sure to set plants at the same depth that they were in the garden originally. Be sure to condition the soil before planting with good organic matter like compost or manure. We have the best choices right here at Skillin's!

*Now is the time to apply Corn Gluten to your lawn for weed control. Corn gluten naturally smothers seeds (including weed seed) from germinating. This is very helpful in controlling crabgrass and dandelions as well as other pesky lawn weeds. Corn gluten can be applied to open perennial gardens now for the same reasons. Corn gluten also makes a good organic fertilizer and we sell it here under the label Lawn Booster Plus! For a good overall and EASY to achieve Lawn Program click Skillin's Lawn Program--designed for you!

*Now is a great time to prune deciduous hedge plants like privet and burning bush. These plants do not flower and you will not risk any flowering. Do NOT prune rhododendrons, lilacs and forsythia now. These plants are soon to flower. Flowering shrubs like that are best pruned RIGHT AFTER they flower.

*Now is a great time to fertilize all perennials, shrubs and trees with their Spring feeding. We love Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Plant Tone by Espoma for all plants that drop their leaves during the winter. (also known as deciduous plants!). We love Holly Tone by Espoma for all evergreen plants that love acidity in their soil. Not to be confusing but blueberries and Blue Hydrangeas are also fans of Holly Tone! These plants are starving for a good organic meal after a long winter and it is time to feed them!

*Windy rain storms blow wet rain into our bird feeders. Don't forget to clean the wet food out of your feeders as our feathered friends "turn up their beaks" at the wet food. They like it dry! Also we should be seeing Orioles soon so now is a great time to hang out some orange slices to try and attract them to your yard. We also sell orange Oriole feeders here at Skillin's!

*Now is a great time to sow pea, carrot, beet, radish, spinach and swiss chard seeds right into your garden. We also have for sale various and exciting lettuce, micro greens and cole crops that grow well even in this cool weather. Soon you will be harvesting! Frankly our leaf lettuce can be eaten starting now. Plant in a soil enriched by compost or manure but also throw in a handful of Garden Tone by Espoma.

You CAN now start tomatoes indoors!

*Now is a great time to start an herb garden in a container. We have all kinds of great Skillin Grown herb choices for your palette. There are no better spices than fresh herbs and the plants are fun to grow! Herb plants come in many different growth habits and textures. Click HERE for a link to a past post in the Skillin's Garden Log about gardening with herbs.

*With this warm Spring, I would plant a few gladiola bulbs in the ground. If you have the space and inclination continue to plant a few more every week until early July. This will give your garden and your cut flower vases a constant source of gorgeous glads from mid summer through a good part of the fall!

*Again with the warm Spring consider planting corn. The growing of corn of course goes back to the Pilgrims. It grows well in Skillin's Country and while all freshly picked vegetables taste awesome; freshly picked corn might stand out the most from store bought corn . Years ago, Jim Crockett in Crockett's Victory Garden wrote about growing corn and I think he was right on:

"Corn is a very heavy feeder...(we recommend preparing the corn planting bed with a layer of compost mixed with a quality organic garden fertilizer like Garden Tone by Espoma. The large corn plants will really draw on the mix of compost, garden soil and Garden Tone)....The trick to corn pollination is in the planting of the rows. Corn is pollinated by the wind; the pollen falls from the male tassels onto the female silk. If the corn is planted in just single rows of each variety, the wind is apt to carry the pollen away and the results will be corn cobs not completely filled out. So I always plant at least 4 rows of each variety." Mr. Crockett goes on to suggest several varieties of corn ranging from early season varieties to late season varieties. Also plant 2 seeds or kernels about 1" apart then another cluster of two another 12" away. Push the kernels about 1" into the ground.

I suggest side dressing the young corn plants after about 2 to 3 weeks with Garden Tone and then side dressing them again about 2 to 3 weeks after that. Again those big corn plants are heavy feeders!

*Now corn is a big tall plant and 12 inches between plants can be a lot of available space in your garden! What plants make good companion plants for corn? Edward C. Smith in the acclaimed Vegetable Gardener's Bible lists beets, bush beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, morning glory (curious about that one), parsley, pumpkin and squash. These plants stay low. Do not grow tomatoes with corn! Tomatoes need space and also tend to grow quite high as well.

*Even if you just have a corner of space in your garden, try planting potatoes. We have seed potatoes and great varieties to choose from! Again prepare your hole about 5" down with some compost and Garden Tone. Potatoes like their food. Cut those seed potatoes into pieces with about 2 to 3 eyes. We have organic Garden Dust by Bonide. Pick some up (this is a good product to have in your inventory) and "shake and bake" your potatoes in the organic Dust. If you have the room give your potatoes about 12" of space. Plant them in a trench about 4 to 5 inches deep. Cover the potatoes that are lying on a mix of soil, compost and Garden Tone with about 3" of soil. As the plants grow--and they will grow!--pull soil in to keep the plants cool. The farmers call this "hilling" or "mounding". When you are hilling your potatoes, you too will be a farmer!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 24, 2012

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