This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
Well, we’ve managed to survive one more month of “sheltering in,” and based on the increase in business at the nursery, I think it is a fair conclusion that many of you made the most of your time by working in your yards. Good for you! That time spent in April will save you lots of labor later in the year.
That being said, there is never a shortage of tasks to be completed in our gardens, so here are a few ideas to keep you busy while we all figure out how to safely go back out in public.
Late Winter and Early Blooming Plants — Heather, forsythia, candy tuft, Aubretia, creeping phlox and just about anything that has just finished blooming can be cut back and groomed now. This small task will reap huge dividends by keeping your plant compact and tidy and covered with new blooms next season. Left undone you will end up with scraggly and overgrown specimens that after a few years you will want to rip out and replace.
Roses — This is a critical month to apply a fungicide and insecticide to prevent the spread of black spot, rust and mildew or the attack of aphids. Whether you prefer to use a natural or synthetic product, don’t put it off! Mildew is a lot easier to prevent than it is to cure. Don’t forget to feed them too. I am a big fan of EB Stone Rose and Flower food because it is all organic and it already has all the goodies including alfalfa blended into the mix. Scratch it into the soil, then cover it all up with a one-inch layer of compost and your roses will be smiling all summer long.
Lawns — April and May are prime months to whip the lawn into shape. I am amazed at how much gardeners struggle with lawns. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. All it takes is a few applications of an organic lawn food, some lime, treat for moss, an occasional spot spraying for clover (or leave it for the bees), regular mowings at the appropriate height with a sharp blade, and some additional water in the summer. Well, maybe this does sound a bit complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it will seem pretty simple. When cared for responsibly, lawns can be an environmental asset. Just stay away from the “weed and feed” products.
Annuals, Perennials, Veggies, Fruits, Shrubs and Trees — Tis the season to be planting all of the above items - you can find the largest selection of them all this time of year. Whether new or established plants, spring is also the time to feed them when they are growing and need it the most. Why is it that gardeners will spend $200 on plants and not a penny on compost or fertilizer?
Dig a hole, throw them in the ground and hope for the best. Isn’t that what Mother Nature does? NOT QUITE. We need to remember that Mother Nature has been building her soil for years before she plants a tree and she continues to do so every time a leaf falls on the ground and rots, returning to the soil the nutrients from which it was formed. Mother Nature is a great recycler. We could learn a lot from Her, but for now just take my advice and add some compost and fertilizer to your beds this month and everything will be fine. After all, I’ve used this approach for decades and it’s worked fine for me so it should work for you too. In the meantime, please stay safe and keep on gardening.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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