Spring is late this year. The flowering trees and shrubs are about 2 weeks later than normal. It’s time to get the landscape cleaned up and get started planting flowers and vegetables. April is a good time to fertilize lawns, trees, shrubs and other permanent perennial plants.
WAIT TO PLANT WARM WEATHER VEGETABLES AND FLOWERS
If we learned anything the last two springs, it was that warm weather vegetables and flowers like tomatoes and marigolds do not like cool weather. They just sit there and make very little growth until the weather warms up. It is easy to remember which vegetables are warm weather lovers. Except for peas, if you eat the fruit, then wait until next month to plant. April is a good time to plant all the cool weather root and leaf vegetables. They are all hardy and will not be damaged by frost. Below is a list of hardy (cool) and tender (warm) annual flowers. Perennial flowers are all hardy and can be planted anytime they become available.
Hardy (Cool) Annuals (plant now) Tender (Warm) Annuals (wait to plant)
Dusty Miller Dahlia
Flowering Kale Moss Rose (Portulaca)
Lobelia Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco)
Nierembergia Scarlet Salvia
Pansy Schizanthus (Butterfly Flower)
Blue Salvia Vinca
GROWING AIDS TO SPEED WARM WEATHER VEGETABLES
Whether you plant them early or not, there are several ways to speed the growth of warm weather vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and cucumbers.
Red plastic mulch soil cover will speed growth by heating the soil and reflecting light and heat upward to the leaves. It is available in 3 or 4 foot wide strips which are placed on the ground and anchored with soil placed along the edges. X holes are made in the plastic and plants are planted with a trowel inserted through the holes.
Clear plastic tunnels can be supported with bent wire or plastic creating miniature greenhouses. Woven plastic cloth row covers can be placed over plants. They are called floating row covers because the plants support them as they grow. Temperatures inside these coverings can be 5 to 20 degrees higher. A combination of red plastic mulch and row covers provides a double stimulus.
Wall-O-Water plant protectors are water filled plant jackets for individual plants which boost temperatures by 10 degrees or more while protecting from frost. If you can’t find them locally, try johnnyseeds.com or territorialseed.com.
CONTROL WINTER WEEDS BEFORE THEY GO TO SEED
While we were hibernating inside this winter weeds have been merrily growing along. It is now time for some of them to produce flowers and seeds. If we remove them before the seeds mature, we will reduce next year’s weed problems. Besides they are easier to remove while they are small. I like to grab weeds with my fingers right where they emerge from the ground so the roots pull out of the ground. I use a hand trowel to remove the ones that don’t come up easily. Weedy grasses in particular need to have the soil loosened so you get the whole root system. You can also hoe weeds without bending over, and then rake up the weeds afterward.
Weeds can also be sprayed with chemicals on a dry day. Roundup and similar products containing glyphosate will kill both grassy and broadleaf weeds. I use a piece of cardboard to shield leaves of ornamentals from the spray. Roundup will not damage bark. Roundup can also be used to kill patches of coarse, weedy grass in lawns for later reseeding.
Lawn weed killers will kill dandelions and other broadleaf weeds without damaging the lawn grass. Granular lawn weed control and fertilizer combination is a good choice if you have a lot of weeds in your lawn.
LEAF DISEASES IN FLOWERING CHERRY, DOGWOOD AND ROSES
These three plants develop several different leaf diseases as the new leaves emerge in the rainy spring weather. Rake up all dead leaves under them because they are the source of re-infestation. Then spray with one of the following as new leaves are developing: Organic gardeners can use lime-sulfur (calcium polysulfide) or Neem oil (my personal favorite). Three systemic fungicides are Propiconazole, Myclobutanil, and Tebuconazole. Propiconazole is available in Ferti-lome Systemic Fungicide. Myclobutanil is in Spectracide Immunex Fungicide. Tebuconazole is in Bayer All-in-One Rose and Flower Care. These 3 systemic fungicides stop disease development in already infected leaves as well as protecting new uninfected leaves. Daconil and Chlorothalonil are also widely available and effective, but are not systemic and therefore protect only new uninfected leaves. In most cases you will have to look at the list of ingredients to find the technical, chemical names.
Garden stores and departments offer numerous brands and types of fertilizers. Gardeners have been trained to think that each type of plant needs its own fertilizer. I have found that lawn fertilizers, which are high in nitrogen, work very well for most trees, shrubs and flowers. The only thing I use any other fertilizer for is for containers and fruiting vegetables, especially tomatoes. General purpose fertilizers with a 1-1-1 balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or vegetable fertilizers with a 1-2-1 balance are better for fruiting vegetables. Typical offerings are 16-16-16 or 5-10-5. For containers I use a coated fertilizer such as Osmocote which gradually releases every time plants are watered.
Lawn fertilizers with part of the nitrogen in slow release form are best for spring application. They will last much longer into the summer. I also like to see micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc included in mixed fertilizers. Organic fertilizers naturally contain all the micro-nutrient elements.