Thursday, April 21, 2016

Timely Tips for April & May

Photo © James Helminski

If it flowers, don’t cut it now!  This includes lilac, azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea.  These plants set next year’s buds shortly after flowering.  If you want to prune these plants, wait until they’re done flowering.

Be prepared for late spring frosts. Cover tender plants with row covers, cardboard, blankets, hot caps, or newspaper. Do not use metal or plastic for protection; they can conduct cold to plants. The last frost date in Bucks County is between May 15th and May 30th.  Keep an eye on local forecasts.

Buy healthy vegetable transplants. Leaves and stems should be green and healthy without any signs of yellowing or browning which may indicate an insect or disease problem.

Use a water-soluble starter fertilizer to water in vegetable transplants. A starter fertilizer is high in phosphorus, which helps to promote good root development, getting the plant off to a good start. The most common water-soluble starter fertilizers (such as 5-10-5, 10-52-17 or 8-32-16) should be used at the rate of one to two tablespoons per gallon of water.

Cut back the foliage of ornamental grasses to about four to six inches. Not removing the foliage delays the warming of the crown slows new growth. Ornamental grasses can be divided in the spring, especially if the center of the plant has died out or if it has overgrown its space. If the base of the grass looks like a doughnut, it's time to divide it. You can dig up and divide the entire plant or you can just dig up half and leave the rest in the ground.

Don't apply a nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn too early in the spring. Research has shown that grass roots thrive, forming a network of deep roots, in early spring. Deep roots will help your lawn survive hot, dry summer weather.  Applying fertilizer too early will promote grass shoot growth at the expense of root development. If you usually apply a pre-emergent crabgrass killer, try to find one without fertilizer, then wait until mid-May to put down a nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn.

Many beneficial insects (butterflies, praying mantis, spiders, bees, ladybugs, etc.) lay their eggs in the garden debris, and under the leaves and mulch on the garden floor. Leave as much as you can for another month. Your beneficial insects either eat other insects, or are pollinators, or both. We need them in our gardens!

Summer flowering bulbs, including tuberous begonias and cannas can be planted in mid-May. Choose a well-drained and partially shaded area. Set the tubers in the ground so they are barely covered, placing them 18 to 24 inches apart to allow plenty of space for growth and air circulation. Fertilize and water when the soil is dry, preferably in the morning or early afternoon to give the foliage time to dry before nightfall to reduce chance of disease. 

No comments:

Post a Comment