Monday, April 2, 2012

April Calendar

Now that we are in full battle dress for the gardening season, it’s time for the return of the Monthly Calendar.  Print it out, post it on the refrigerator door, or in the potting shed, should you be so fortunate.
M. stellata. The end of the earliest blooming variety of Magnolia.

The close of March put a serious knot into everyone’s plans. The extraordinary heat pushed many plants into an early growth spurt while they were still under wraps.  Then a late March freeze made everyone nervous.  Native plants seem to fare well in unexpected turns in the weather since they respond more to light cycles than temperature, but the imports can be been fooled.

Survival of the fittest: violets in concrete.
Planting conditions are a concern; the soil is bone dry since there has been warm sun and virtually no rain.  Dazed New Yorkers are wandering around in T-shirts and sandals.  We are not off to a good start.

If you haven’t already done so, start a garden diary.  Looking back at 2011 will be informative for those of you who are already in the diary mode.

By now winter coverings should be off. Clear mulch carefully to avoid injuring new growth. Keep a few old sheets around for an unexpected frost. 
Make sure you water dry soil before turning over, but not so much that you damage the structure. 
Unwrap roses, prune deadwood, remove mulch from crowns.
Start weeding onion grass and chickweed.
Pansies along a sidewalk.

You can plant pansies now.
It’s not too late to sow sweet peas outdoors. Saint Patrick’s Day and Good Friday are the traditional days for this.  
Train vines to their supports, typing up branches dislodged by  winter winds.  Cut off bruised and broken ends.
Check shrubs for suckers and prune.  
Paint railings and steps.                                                                          
Scrub terraces and balconies.
Visit local nurseries to select trees and shrubs.


Buy new containers and tubs.  Fill with soil in anticipation of planting.

Selection of pots at Phantom Gardener Nursery in Rhinebeck.

Soak and plant second round of sweet peas.

Plant cool weather vegetables : lettuces, herbs, beets cabbages, onions and leeks.
Rake the last of the dead leaves from lawns and beds.
Hose down house siding. 
Cultivate and rake perennial borders.  Feed with                     
commercial fertilizer.

Seed the lawn.
Fertilize lawns, shrubs and roses.

Consider the gift plants.  Prepare to deal with your Easter gifts by locating a place either outdoors in the soil, or outdoors in a larger pot. 
Beware of cut-rate plants.  There are no bargains in this world.
Watch out for rabbits, chipmunks, and voles.  Look for tell-tale holes.  If you have any success in keeping them at bay, please let us know. 
Track down the little bulbs-- crocus, scilla and their kin -- and take notes for your fall orders. 
Finish dividing perennials that performed poorly last year.  
Last call to move large trees and shrubs.

Flowering quince:
glorious blossom, hopelessly awkward form.

Prune forsythia and other spring flowering shrubs whenever the blooms are finished.  
If the soil is not sticky, sow seeds of hardy vegetables and flowers. Make sure night temperatures are steady at or above 55F.
You might be able to keep pansies blooming through early July by picking off the dead blossoms so that seeds will not form.  If they are planted in a shady spot for part of the day, they will bloom even longer.
If you are growing lavender, prune it back hard to encourage new growth.

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