Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Smart Gardening for Mid and Late April 2012!

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.

Very recently Paul sent out as part of his weekly newsletter a great post for Smart Gardening for this time of year. This post is FULL of trmendous gardening nuggets for us in Skillin's Country. So read it carefully! Here is what he has to say:

"This spring has brought us unusual weather with lots of early warmth but a lack of moisture.  Records have been broken in every state with the heat and that has excited all of us gardeners but the lack of rainfall is and could be a major problem in the weeks to come.  Our flowering plants are blooming ahead of schedule and in many cases the bloom time has been affected.  Hot weather shortens the flowering time on plants and if our ever changing weather pattern gives us a couple days of cold some of our flowering plant is damaged by frost.  My magnolias were hit by the frost last week and half the flowers were damaged, how about you?

Here are a few things you can do to help your flowering trees and shrubs to stay in bloom longer this spring.  If you have a plant in bloom right now get out your sprinkler and water them to lengthen the blooming period as a plant in flower requires more water than one not in flower.  When your plants finish flowering they will begin to make the new growth and the foliage for this year.  If the soil is dry like it is right now that new growth will be less.  Less new growth limits the plants ability to repair any winter damage it might have suffered including the snow storm we had this past October.  Less new growth means less fruit or berries on your plants in the garden.  Less new growth affects the plants ability to make energy to fight of disease problems and replace any damaged foliage if insects become a problem.  Get out the hose and start watering right now because every state from Maine to Florida is 5 to 8 inches of rainfall below normal since January, so where are those April showers?

If you have put down a lawn fertilizer or a fertilizer with crabgrass control, it will not be effective unless you water the lawn!  You must change the dry granular fertilizer and crabgrass control product to a liquid so it can create a barrier to kill the crabgrass seed before it germinates and the fertilizer will just sit there on top of the soil and not feed the grass.  You need to water right now or the lawn will not thicken preventing future weed to develop in the lawn and the crabgrass will germinate and begin to grow with this heat. For this to become effective we need at least one inch of water per week during April and May.  If your grass does not get off to a good start in the next few weeks and the weather continues to stay dry your lawn will not be able to develop a deep root system and when July arrives be prepared for a brown and weedy lawn, just a warning get out the hose and water now!

This weather is wonderful for working in the garden and preparing it for planting  all types of perennials, shrubs, trees, roses, groundcovers, vines and some annuals and vegetables but be careful and think before you plant those tender plants.  This past week I made a big effort to visit as many greenhouse, garden centers and The Big Box stores as possible and I am SCARED for you because the Big Box stores are selling you plants that “ARE NOT READY” to be planted yet.  I want you to think before planting this spring it is only April 19 and in the North East there is a very good possibility that we will have a killing frost in the next two or three week.  (We at Skillin's can definitely advise you as to which plants are ready to go out and which are not!)

It is too early to plant most vegetables unless they are considered “cold crops” like Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, onions, lettuce, and some seeds like peas, spinach, and beets.  The only flowers that are safe to plant now are Pansy, Johnny- jump- up and violets.  Geraniums will be killed or stunted so please do not fall into the Box store trap, WAIT until the time is right to plant them!  If you want to purchase a hanging basket they must come inside your home at night, they may not die but you will lose the new flower buds or your plant will be damaged and lose the ability to perform properly for you later, WAIT!  Don’t even think of planting Tomatoes, peppers, vine crops, impatient, marigolds, and herbs like Basil and parsley, it’s too early!

All I can say is shame on you Big Box Stores for taking advantage on the new gardener and some gardeners who should know better.  These gardeners will feel that they have done something wrong, become discourage and never try to grow perennials or roses because they failed with the easy to grow annuals or vegetable.  Customer service at its worst!

What you should be doing now is pruning your roses and fertilizing them to help get them off to a good start when the weather stabilizes.  Clean all your perennial beds, divide those that need to be divided and fertilize them also.  (We love Flower Tone or Plant Tone for fertilizing your roses and perennials). Set up your Peony cages; fasten the vines to the trellises and if any plants need to be moved now is the time to move them unless they are in flower.  It’s also time to fertilize your spring flowering bulbs like tulips, and daffodils and especially those that are not flowering with Bulb –Tone .  When the flowers begin to fade be sure to remove the faded flowers but not the foliage for at least a month after they bloom.

Your Clematis and Lilacs need to be limed or use wood ash from your fireplace or wood stove to help keep the soil sweet and encourage more flowers and strong growth.  Use Fast Acting Lime by Encap to help control and eliminate the moss that is trying to take over your lawn and garden.  Did you know that acid soils, that have moss growing in them, will have more weeds growing in them, because weeds prefer acid soil? Annual and Perennial gardens, vegetable gardens, planters and your flowering shrubs and trees should be limed every other year if you want the most flowers from your plants, acid soil will limit the plants ability to make flowers!

Edge your flower and shrub beds and cover them with 1 to 3 inches of bark mulch or compost to help control weeds and prevent the hot summer sun from drying them out.  Start pruning your privacy hedges right now before the new growth covers the plants to control their size and help keep them nice and thick, “remember pruning stimulates new growth on all plants.”  Non flowering plants like Burning Bush, Privet hedges, Barberry  and evergreens like Hemlock, Arborvitae, holly, Boxwood and yews will look better if pruned before the plants begins to grow because you’re not damaging the foliage and the new foliage that forms will fill in holes in the plant made by the damage of snow and weather.  At this time of the year you can cut back these plants by 25 to 30 % to control their size and when the new growth forms they will look like they were never pruner.

Visit your local nursery and ask for help if you’re not sure what to do as these people are trained and experienced professionals who love to garden and want to share their knowledge with you.  Look at the new shrubs, trees, and plants in their yard and I am sure you will find something that will excite you about gardening this year.  Remember there is “NO” dumb gardening question as we are always learning about the new plants, and garden related products to help them grow and stay insect and disease free. Please, this year think about what you want to do and then ask for help to do it right the first time, not doing this is “Dumb.” (We love ALL gardening questions at Skillin's!)

Thanks Paul Parent for this "spot on" post!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 18, 2012

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