- Yard Tools
MONTHLY GARDENING TIPS
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
Private shade garden, Garden Tour, July, 2018
Field Trip to Blithewold Mansion Gardens, August 2018
Private garden tour, Garden Tour, July 2018
GARDENING TIPS BULLETIN: April 2019 (From UCONN)
ANNUALS AND PERENNIALS
- Cut ornamental grasses and sedum to a height of 6" before new growth appears.
- Cut buddleia, Russian sage, and artemisia to a height of 8-12”.
- Prune lavender to 1/3 of its height once new growth appears.
- Prune old, leggy growth from heather (which flowers on new growth in late summer) but prune heath (which sets its flower buds in late spring) just enough to shape it in the early spring.
- Pull back mulch from perennials to allow the soil to warm up but be prepared to temporarily recover them if heavy frosts are predicted.
- Start dahlia tubers in pots indoors in a cool spot. Pinch back tips when they reach 6” and transplant outdoors when the ground temperature reaches 60°.
- Get the jump on weeds in garden beds by pulling out any that overwinter and applying mulch.
- For an instant spring show, fill containers with purchased forced spring bulbs from supermarkets and garden centers.
- Freezing temperatures don’t harm pansies, but if they have been grown in a greenhouse they should be gradually exposed to outdoor temperatures before planting.
- Keep Easter lilies in a moist and brightly lit location. They can be planted in the garden after the danger of frost.
- Divide overcrowded summer or fall blooming perennials.
- Hardy water lilies may be planted in pools in spring but wait until the water reaches 70° for tropical water lilies.
- Place peony supports. Transplant houseplants that need repotting.
- Don’t start working your garden before the soil is ready to avoid compaction. Monitor those soil temperatures for proper germination temperatures for particular seed with a soil thermometer.
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
- Continue to direct sow peas, carrots, radishes, lettuces, and spinach every two weeks through mid-May for staggered harvests.
- Plant seedlings of cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli.
- Purchase onion sets for planting and set 1" deep and 4 to 5" apart when soil can be worked.
- Extend the season by speeding up the warming of soil on garden beds by covering the beds with black plastic for a few weeks.
- Fertilize fall-planted garlic with a high-nitrogen source, like blood meal or bat guano. Got onion sets that over-wintered? Now’s the time to start hitting them with nitrogen boosts, maybe fish fertilizer, periodically until their tops go soft and wilt in the coming summer.
- Now’s the time to plant asparagus crowns for years of returns.
- Place seedlings in cold frames around April 25 or later to harden off.
- Apply sprays as needed to control insect pests and diseases on apple , peaches and nectarines, pear, and plum trees if the temperature is over 40°F.
- Check fruit trees for Eastern tent caterpillars, they emerge around the same time as leaves sprout. Blast nests with a strong spray of water to destroy them.
- A new generation of gypsy moth caterpillars will hatch in late April and begin feeding on the leaves of many tree species. Remove and destroy any egg masses you find on your trees.
- Despite good cultural practices, pests and diseases at times may appear. Chemical control should be used only after all other methods have failed.
For pesticide information please call UConn Home and Garden Education Center weekdays, in Connecticut call toll free 877-486-6271.
- Spring pruning of fruit trees is best done early. If you’re going to spray trees with a horticultural oil— now’s the time– use one that has negligible toxicity and degrades quickly in the environment.
LANDSCAPE & LAWNS
- Dead spots in the lawn can still be renovated in early April. Top dress bare areas with a mix of topsoil and compost, reseed, and keep moist until germination.
- Apply pre-emergent crabgrass weed control when the Forsythia bloom.
- Do not use a pre-emergent weed control if you are trying to germinate grass seed.
- Early spring is a great time to spot spray or hand-dig dandelions. If spraying, choose a product that won’t kill grass. If digging, wait until after a rain, when soil is soft.
- Prune back bedraggled looking ground covers and fertilize lightly after April 15.
- Turn and aerate compost piles. Screen any compost you’ll be applying in the next few weeks so that it will be ready when you need it.
- Go after lawn pests: Grubs of various sorts (like those of the Japanese beetle) and sod webworms take advantage of spring to feed near the surface. Now’s the time to inspect your lawn for dead and fading patches or soft spongy areas where grubs may have destroyed the turf’s roots. You might spot the grubs themselves. Hit them with an Organic Materials Review Institute-listed spray while they’re vulnerable. Have chickens? Before spraying, turn them loose –with supervision, of course.
TREES AND SHRUBS
- A new generation of gypsy moth and eastern tent caterpillars will hatch in late April and begin feeding on the leaves of many tree species. Remove and destroy any egg masses you find on your trees.
- Gypsy moth egg masses are buff-colored and may be found on trees, stones, fences, lawn furniture, and other protected places.
- The eggs of the eastern tent caterpillar are deposited in brownish masses, resembling a large raisin squeezed around a twig. Scrape off the egg masses and crush underfoot or drop into a pail of detergent and water.
- Complete removal of diseased, weak, or crossing branches on shrubs and small trees.
- Celebrate Arbor Day on April 26th by planting a tree. Choose planting sites based on exposure to sun, shade, wind and distance from water source.
- Remove any remaining leaves from last summer on roses and spread a thin layer of new mulch underneath them. This will help prevent the spread of any diseases that may have over-wintered.
- Spread fertilizer under roses and apple trees.
- Check for raised mole tunnels in the yard and plan to put down a grub control product as necessary (the presence of moles does not mean there is a grub problem) between mid-June and mid-July.
- Set up a bat house early in the month to encourage them to roost. Visit the DEEP’s Bats fact sheet for information and bat house plans.
- Set up 1 or 2 rain barrels at downspouts to water garden beds, flower beds, and containers.
- When filling large containers for the deck or patio, save on soil by creating a false bottom. Most container plants don't need more than about a foot of soil depth for their roots. Keep the plant in a smaller pot that is supported by an inverted pot or rocks. Do not use rocks, Styrofoam packing peanuts, or soda cans directly below the layer of soil as water will not drain properly and the plant’s roots may rot.
3 Elements for Making Perfect Compost
1. Start with a container
Compost bins are of two types, stationary and rotating. Both types must have their contents turned periodically to provide oxygen and combine the decaying materials.
Stationary bins can be as simple as well-ventilated cage made from wire fence sections or wooden crates assembled from a kit. A well-designed bin will retain heat and moisture, allowing for quicker results. Locate the pile in a sunny location so that it has as much heat as possible. If it’s in the shade all day, decomposition will still happen, but it will be much slower, especially when freezing temps arrive in the fall. Compost tumblers can also take heat advantage of being placed in direct sunlight. Skip meat, fish and dairy for outdoor bins because they tend to attract pests like mice, raccoons and dogs. Begin by placing chunky material like small branches or woody stems on the bottom for good airflow. Every time you add green material, add some brown as well to keep a good moisture balance and create air pockets.
Compost tumblers are easy-to-turn bins that speed up the process — compost in weeks, not months or years — by frequent oxygen infusions and heat retention. Select one based on how much plant matter (grass, leaves, weeds, stalks and stems from last year’s garden) you have at your disposal, how large your yard is, and how quickly you need to use the finished product.
2. Get the ingredient mix right
A low-maintenance pile has a combination of brown and green plant matter, plus some moisture to keep the good bacteria humming. Shredded newspaper, wood chips and dry leaves are ideal for the brown elements; kitchen waste and grass clippings are perfect for the green add-ins. It’s a good idea to give your new pile a jump-start to get the process started. There are several great activators that are ready to go right out of the box. No need to mix it in well. Fold in a couple shovelfuls of garden soil rich in organic matter and let the natural process begin.
3. Remember a few simple chores.
Taking care of a compost pile is extremely basic, but a wee bit of care makes a huge difference. Add material regularly to give the happy bacteria some fresh food to consume and enough insulation to keep the process warm.
Turn the pile with a pitchfork or compost aerator every week or two to make sure that all of the materials are blended in and working together. After you’ve mixed things up, grab a handful to see if it’s slightly damp. Too little moisture will slow the decomposition process and too much will leave you with a slimy mess. In a few months, your finished product should be a dark, crumbly soil that smells like fresh earth.
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