Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May (Early May) Garden Talks

Hello again,

Well April has come to a close. It has mostly been a month of glorious weather! In fact by mid month we had record temperatures and dry soil! Since then we have received some quality rain and the nights have turned cool.

Some of the northern and outlying areas of Skillin's Country have been hit by some frost. Most plants should be fine. Even most magnolias have come through okay--although some saucer magnolias that have had "wide open" flower blossoms are showing some brown effects. Pansies will still thrive as well as perennials.

The cold wind may have scarred some of the young lettuces, broccolis and other cold crops. Wind protection is something we always need to be ready for!

If anyone has planted tender annuals then this past cold weather and windy days has just reinforced the fact that you can plant but you need to be ready with the frost blankets or sheets to keep frost particles and drying winds away from these plants. You can plant but reinforce your plants with some quality natural foods and BE READY to protect!

*These past few weeks have been a good time to get Crabgrass Preventer onto our grassy areas to help keep crabgrass under control. Crabgrass Preventers come in a few forms--with either timed chemicals (for safer and more effective applications than older style chemicals) OR you can use all natural corn gluten (most effective if applied now in the Spring and then in the early fall (really around Labor Day or by mid September).

Crabgrass preventers are granular. They are spread on the lawn and once they become moist will spread a skin or cover over the soil. This cover prevents seed from germinating. Crabgrass is an annual weed that spreads millions of seeds over your existing lawn. The seed is cast in the fall once the crabgrass plants tassel and the seed heads burst. The seeds sprout--some in the fall--and the remainder once the ground starts to warm up in the Spring. So if the crabgrass preventer is put down just when the weather is more consistently warm the timing is often right to discourage much of the seed in the Spring from germinating.

We carry all types of crabgrass preventers at Skillin's--including a newer type that will allow you to put grass seed down and have it germinate despite the presence of the crabgrass preventer. But corn gluten should not be put down if you have put grass seed down on thin areas because the cover it produces will inhibit the grass seed from germinating.

The traditional deadline for applying crabgrass preventers is before the forsythia blossoms drop and we still have about a few days before that time really hits.

*Speaking of forsythia, Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club reminds us that the best time to prune forsythia is just when it is reaching the end of it's flowering. Prune the branches at different lengths to better give the plant a natual more undefined look.

The Time is Soon to best Prune Your Forysthia

Pruning at the end of flowering will encourage much more growth during the coming year. This abundant new growth will be the branches that give us next year's flowers. So....a good pruning at the end of flowering this year means more flowers next year!

If you have not done so, now is a good time to spread some nice natural fertilizer around your forsythia. I would recommend Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Flower Tone by Espoma for the job.

Click HERE for much more information about care for forsythias--they are just an awesome shrub!

*Here is  a "primer" on lime for the lawn and garden:

We much prefer the calcium based limes like  Fast Acting Lime by Encap.

Liming can be done anytime. I apply lime about every other year on my lawn and my garden. But a soil test is a good thing to do periodically. We do sell soil test kits here that work well in measuring pH.

Do not lime around evergreens but do around most deciduous shrubs like lilacs and your perennials.

Our soil will best and most efficiently use the nutrients we provide through our fertilizers with a neutral pH of 7.0 or just below, that is why lime is so often recommended. Plus our soils are often found deficient in calcium and other important minerals that a calcium based lime provides.

Want more easy to follow and effective lawn tips? Go to Lawn Care Program from Skillin's! to see how achievable a good lawn can be for us "average Joes" (although all the Joes I know are way above average)! You CAN grow a nice lawn without a huge investment of time and labor!

**Margaret from A Way to Garden has some good garden pointers for early May:

*Now is a great time to get seed potatoes in the ground!

We Have Seed Potatoes and It is Time to Plant Them! Let us Show You How!

*Once the perennial beds are cleaned up, top dress with a good natural fertilizer like Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Flower Tone by Espoma. Both are great organic fertilizers that will work to improve the soil. Once that is done then apply a layer of a good compost as a mulch around your perennials. I use Fundy Blend by Coast of Maine but there are other good choices as well. If you have a large area to cover it may make sense to purchase some of our organic bulk compost from Skillin's.

Thanks Margaret!!

Also do not "stress" about this job (or any task for your garden). This process of top dressing with a good natural fertilizer and then a layer of compost is a great practice but can certainly done by small areas over a number of weeks if that is what your schedule and body joints permit!

*Speaking of feeding, your trees and shrubs are STARVING for nutrients right now. Rhodys in particular are not a rich green in many cases. Get the Holly Tone by Espoma on the Rhodys! Fruit trees should be on your list too. I recommend using a good garden fertilizer like Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Garden Tone by Espoma for the fruit trees. Take a stake and pound a hole about every 6 feet around the drip line of the tree. Then fill the hole with the fertilizer I just mentioned. Do this now and again in late summer or early fall. Consistent (twice per year) organic feeding around your trees and shrubs will provide a slow but steady source of nutrients for when the plant needs them and will go a long way to improving your garden soil NATURALLY!

This week is a great time to sow carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce and dill directly into the garden. You can do this even if you already have some of these crops already started in your garden. A second sowing is a great way to extend your harvest--as are 3rd, 4th, 5th sowings as the season progresses. Skillin's Plug: We have a GREAT selection of lettuce and other greens as seedlings. They are the perfect size to plant and you will be able to harvest the leaf lettuces, mesclun mix and arugula seedlings that we have within the next few days! When I plant seeds or seedlings I always put a little bit of all natural Garden Tone by Espoma into the soil to help the roots grow a little faster and stronger!

Now is the time in many cases to deadhead Spring Flower Bulbs as blooms fade, but do leave the foliage intact to wither for awhile. Right now your bulbs underground are drawing nutrients from the foliage above ground. Let that happen for bigger bulbs next year! Again your bulbs are hungry and are looking to grow. Now is a good time to help them by poking a few holes around the bulb and pouring down some Bulb Tone or Plant Tone by Espoma. Or give the foliage a liquid feed of all natural Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest. Next Spring you will be glad you did!
The grass is growing green! Remember don't bag or rake your leaf clippings! Let them lie on your lawn; this is a "green" and effective way to return valuable nitrogen to your soil. Also mow your lawn a little taller than you have in the past. A "clean shaven" and short lawn gives more light and air to weeds in the lawn. Conversely a taller lawn "shades" or "canopies" potential weeds and this helps to naturally keep the weed population down.
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 1, 2012

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