Last updated on March 30th, 2016
HELLO, APRIL! Honestly, after the coldest March on record, I’m really happy to see you! I’m also happy to report that my Witch Hazel (above) is in fragrant bloom, and that a number of daffodils are poking their tips through recently-thawed soil. Shall we have a look at the month’s garden chores?
Winter-Sowing. Lots of you have written to say your winter-sown seeds are sprouting. That’s music to my ears!
Alas, here in New York’s Hudson Valley (zone 5-b), it’s been too cold for germination to occur. But I’m not worried. The seeds will sprout in mid- to late-April, and more will pop up in early May. I’ll sow tender annuals and vegetables in milk jug greenhouses around April 15.
New to Winter-Sowing? You can read all about it in these mind-blowing posts:
Perennial Beds. To avoid damaging emerging shoots, do what I do, and clean up beds entirely by hand. Then apply a balanced, organic fertilizer over the old mulch. Place fresh mulch over the fertilizer.
Mulch. Consider how much you’ll need, and then obtain twice that amount. This way you’ll have plenty on hand for beds and paths. Shredded woodchips, which many of us can obtain for free, make a fine mulch for beds, and you don’t have to let them age first, as I’d previously thought. Shredded leaves, of course, are also terrific for mulching beds.
Dealing with Weeds. If pulling weeds isn’t your idea of a good time — I can’t bear the job — plan to smother the offenders with thick layers of newspaper or cardboard, as above, followed by a another layer of shredded leaves or some other mulch. Do this after the ground has thawed.
Vinegar for Paths. I use common white vinegar to eliminate the weeds which emerge in my brick, gravel, and blue-stone walkways. I do not use vinegar on my lawn or in my garden beds.
Dandelions. I let these grow in the lawn during all of April and most of May. Why? Because dandelions provide early food for honey bees. By late May, when the bees can find food elsewhere in the garden, I keep the weeds out of sight with regular mowing.
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.
And in case you are wondering, that is not my rear end in the above photograph.
Roses. Uncover and prune shrubs before leaf break. I prune my David Austin roses (pictured above) back by about half, and then apply a balanced, organic fertilizer beneath the drip-line of each. To conserve moisture and reduce weeds, I mulch first with newspaper or cardboard. Then I apply a layer of shredded leaves or shredded wood chips. Here are some of the better roses I grow for their handsome form and intoxicating perfume.
Blackspot on Roses. You can treat this fungus with ordinary milk. The details.
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 separate, just as this old Playtex brassiere commercial advised. 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. I’m on the job!
And finally, don’t work so hard that you miss out on the miracle of Spring!
In the comments field below, let me know what’s happening in your own garden. Is it awake yet? Or is it still buried in snow?
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