DO YOU PANIC IN APRIL? I don’t blame you. This is the month when the garden requires us to move in 10 directions at once. Still, spring is too beautiful not to keep a few hours for savoring. Between planting, pruning, feeding and weeding jobs, let’s stop to enjoy the parade of tulips (that’s ‘Purple Flag’ in the photo up top), and to inhale the sweet air of hyacinths and daffodils. Then it’s on to the following chores:
Mulch. My policy is to consider how much I’ll need, and then obtain twice that amount. This way there is plenty on hand for beds and paths. Shredded woodchips, which many of us can obtain for free, makes a fine mulch for beds, as long as the material has been allowed to compost for at least one year. Un-composted, these woodchips make a cushy paving surface for informal paths.
Boxwood. Late this month or early next, hire a professional to shear and shape these enduring evergreens. I always save some of the trimmings to make new plants.
Roses. Uncover and prune shrubs. I prune my David Austin roses back by about half, and then apply a balanced, organic fertilizer beneath the drip-line of each. To conserve moisture and reduce weeds, mulch beds heavily with either shredded leaves or shredded, composted wood chips. Here are some of the better roses I grow for their handsome form and intoxicating perfume.
Weeds. Every weed pulled now is a thousand you won’t have to confront later. A forked tool is useful for pulling up weeds with long tap roots. To kill the annoying weeds which emerge in my gravel, brick, and blue-stone paths, I spray them with plain white vinegar. (And this year, instead of cursing at my dandelions, I’m going to eat them.)
Tender Annuals. Sow these in the milk-jug greenhouses. Transplant seedlings to the open garden following this schedule.
Perennial Beds. To avoid damaging emerging shoots, clean up beds by hand. Then apply a balanced, organic fertilizer over the old mulch. Place fresh mulch over the fertilizer.
Peony. Apply a trowel-full of wood ashes and one of manure or compost (triple these amounts for huge plants). Also, set ringed supports around plants before heavy growth makes the job impossible. If your peony refuses to bloom, it is either planted too deeply or set in a too-shady location.
Chrysanthemums. Lift and divide. Then plant the rooted divisions 18 inches apart.
Iris. Remove and destroy old leaves. Also, remove any surrounding debris in which the eggs of the dreaded iris borer may lie. As you can see in the photo above, my own iris bed is in desperate need of attention.
Winter-Sown Perennials. When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings to permanent quarters mid-month. My transplanting method for winter-sown seedlings.
And finally, don’t work so hard that you miss out on the miracle of Spring!
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