Spring Garden Preparation

It’s hard to believe, but this week marks the beginning of spring.  After what seemed to be the longest winter on record, everyone is itching to spend some time outside. A great way to do this is to begin your prep work in the garden and to finish up any fall chores you didn’t get around to before the cold hit in November.  The season is just starting and there’s plenty of time to get it all done. So take one step at a time and your yard will be looking great in no time! And if done correctly, come Mother’s Day, the prep work will be done and you can just plug in your beautiful flowers.

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April

Yes, even in April, when we are still four to six weeks away from our last frost, we can get our hands dirty.  To add a little color to your yard, cool-season flowers like pansies and violas, are perfect for planting in containers or the ground. These flowers thrive in the cool weather and can handle frosts. They don't like heat though, so be sure to keep them watered in this unusual weather.  Other flower choices include snapdragons, nemesia, alyssum and stock which all come in a variety of colors. While these flowers do well in cooler temperatures, keep in mind that they will need to be covered with a bed sheet if a heavy frost is forecasted.

If you want to get a jump on your herb and vegetable gardens, there are a few edible plants that like the cool weather as well.  Try planting parsley, cilantro, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and asparagus.  By the time the rest of your vegetable garden is ready to be planted in May, these will have a healthy head start.

April is a great time to create any new flower beds that you are looking to add to your yard.  Be sure that your soil is not too wet when doing this, because damp soil can create clumps and ruin the texture.  If your soil doesn’t seem to be as good as you hoped, you can always build a raised bed instead.

Unfortunately, with April, comes the beginning of our battle with weeds.  When your bushes begin to bud, it is time to use pre-emergent weed killers, like Preen, on your flowerbeds and borders.  Hopefully, this will give you a head start on the weeds by preventing them from germinating.

Finally, April is the time to start pruning your trees, shrubs and roses.  Be sure to avoid pruning any spring-blooming plants, such as forsythia, so that you do not cut off any buds.   Any perennials that were not pruned in the fall can be cleaned now, as well as any leaves that were trapped under the snow. Also, be sure to clean up the winter mulch after you spot new growth.

On your roses, you can trim off the dead shoots after you see half-inch tiny red buds sent out. This means the rose is no longer dormant, and ready to be cleaned.  This is also the time for your first feeding to your roses.  When pruning them for the first time, be sure to give them a healthy dose of fertilizer to jumpstart their growing

Now is also the time to divide and transplant summer and fall-blooming perennials.  Spring-blooming perennials should be divided in the fall.  Any time you divide and transplant perennials, be sure it is not too hot or too cold.  The extremes can make it difficult for a plant to settle in.

May

Once you have your roses pruned and your soil prepared, it is time to plant.  Any cooler weather plants, like pansies and violas, will stick around until June, when the summer heat arrives.  Try to incorporate these into your late spring and summer pots and beds to create a full look. To get the maximum amount of time out of the early spring plants, be sure to dead head them, taking off any spent flowers before they go to seed.

The month of May is a great time of year to plant perennials, warm-season annuals and summer bulbs.  Be sure that you do keep a close watch on the evening temperatures as frost can still happen.  If the temperatures begin to dip, cover your plants at night with a spare bed sheet.  Do not use plastic! The plants have got to breathe.

With more plants comes more maintenance.  Be sure to water and fertilize on a regular basis, especially any containers or hanging baskets.  Also, fertilize your lawns to kill any dandelions or other various weeds with a broad-leaf fertilizer. If you want to add mulch to any beds, be sure to wait towards the end of May, when the soil has had a chance to warm up.

Now that you’ve got the basics on spring prep, we just need the weather to cooperate so we can get out there and kick off our growing season.

Kim Boyer