Garden chores for April
GREATER AKRON — Unlike recent years, spring temperatures have definitely not been aggressive this year. Few spring bulbs are blooming, and I have spied no ornamental trees opening its flower buds just yet. This means that there should be a bit more time to get your yard in order before the rest of your plants are up and growing. Here are some tips to help get you started:
- Think “clean up” from the top down. In other words, look up at your house first. Power wash the siding to get rid of unsightly moss or other dirt now, before perennials sprout any taller in your flower beds.
- Next, power wash or scrub patio furniture.
- Now power wash sidewalks, patios and cement driveways to remove the gritty dark layer deposited this past winter.
- Give porches and entryways a thorough sweeping off and scrubbing.
- Repair or replace worn or unsafe patio furniture.
- Look to your garden tools. Inspect for broken parts, cracked handles and dull edges. Repair, oil, sharpen or discard.
- Don’t forget to sharpen your mower blade. Dull blades tear the grass, which leaves ragged edges that turn brown.
- Now do a walk through to inspect your yard and flowerbeds. Keep your footsteps in the lawn as much as possible; avoid tramping on the soil of your gardening beds. Gather up all dead branches and twigs that blew in during the winter. Stack them neatly away from the house to save for fire pit kindling.
- Prune away any broken or diseased branches on shrubs and trees.
- Remove trapped detritus in your lawn with a sturdy rake.
- Pot up some containers with colorful pansies and violas to embellish the freshly cleaned spaces. Also plant them near your front walkway or where you will see them every day. These plants are cool weather lovers that fill in nicely until temperatures warm up.
- Pull any young weed sprouts the instant you spot them. Do this now to prevent weed seeds from forming.
- After weeding, scatter a seed sprout preventive on all your beds that prevents weed seed sprouts from getting a foothold in the soil.
- After the blossoms on your spring-flowering bulbs fade, scatter fertilizer to help bolster foliage and encourage bulb growth. Use a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 6-12-12. Do not cut away foliage; leave in place to wither and dry, or allow the foliage to ripen for a minimum of six weeks before removing.
- Mow the lawn once the soil is firm and dry. Fertilize and apply weed control. It’s not too late to prevent crabgrass and other weed seeds from sprouting in your lawn.
- Cut back and clean up the dead growth of all perennials and ornamental grasses that were left in place last fall.
- Topdress flower beds with organic fertilizer and/or well-rotted compost. Wait to apply mulch until the soil warms up.
- Prune blackened growth from rose canes before the leaf buds unfurl. Use judicious pruning to open up the plant to allow air circulation and more sunlight into the center of the plan. Always remove dead, damaged and diseased canes at any time.
- Feed your rosebushes and/or plant new rosebushes now.
- Divide and transplant summer-blooming perennials after new sprouts have grown about 3 to 5 inches tall.
- Plant cool season-loving peas and sow seeds for leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, beets and other root vegetables.
- Set out seedlings for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower at month’s end.
- Plant asparagus roots now.
- Fill a large vase with cut branches of fragrant spring-blooming shrubs such as forsythia that have budded out. Bring it indoors and keep well watered. The flowers buds will develop and bloom, releasing their fragrance throughout your home.
- Prune spring-blooming shrubs such as forsythia and spicebush immediately after the blossoms fade.
- Fertilize spring-blooming shrubs after flowering is complete.
- Don’t plant annuals just yet. There is always the chance of a freeze or frost warning until the end of May.
- Apply soil drench to ash trees and viburnum shrubs to prevent serious damage and destruction by the emerald ash borer and the viburnum leaf beetle.
- Plant new deciduous trees and evergreens. It is a good time to transplant young trees and shrubs also, as long as they haven’t leafed out. Never transplant a tree that has already begun to flower. Wait until it goes dormant in fall.
- Plant a new lawn or overseed an existing one. If you have already used a crabgrass pre-emergent, do not overseed until late summer.
- Upgrade or install new outdoor garden lighting at the same time you are getting the beds into shape with transplanting, dividing and top-dressing.
- Tackle a new garden design in your yard. Lay out the design, then cover the area with a thick layer of newspapers to smother the grass. Finish with a layer of mulch.
- If yet another frigid weather front moves in, don’t just sit there twiddling your thumbs. Use this time to plan color schemes for setting out annuals. Experiment with color pencils on paper for combinations you’ve never tried before. When Mother Nature eventually relinquishes her tightfisted hold on the final dregs of winter past, you can hit the ground running to accomplish a new garden of splashy summer florals.
For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3.
Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension.
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