A GROWING CONCERN: April prep bears fruit for your garden.

THIS IS NO LATE April Fools’ joke: I am really not a flower guru so much as a soil prep wizard.

Your plants can only perform to the level their soils are prepared for their root system.

Today, before anything else, secure compost, peat moss, manure, sandy loam, vermiculite, perlite and good topsoils.

Then till these deep — 8 to 12 inches — and mix in plenty of organic nutrients.

Always craft, mound and shape your light soil beds for optimum visual effects; don’t just leave your beds flat.

With that said, here is your baker’s dozen To Do List for April.

1. Kill those weeds. There are a lot of products out there to help you. Read their labels carefully to decide which is right for you.

Regardless of which brand you choose, remember they are poison.

Follow the directions explicitly and keep away from children and pets. Wear gloves and wipe down bottles and surfaces to keep an eye on products for leakage and spills.

I prefer Roundup. It’s an expensive product but worth every penny.

First, it does not translocate — meaning it stays where you spray it.

Second, because it is absorbed into biomass, it won’t move down into the soil, damaging worms and other soil creatures.

Finally, the chemical goes inert rapidly so that 24 hours later, there will be no harmful residue hanging around to harm your furry or feathered friends.

Realize that one drop per square inch will kill plants, so be mindful of wind and spray tip direction.

2. Deadhead your early bloomers.

We all want plants to do well, especially in the future.

Don’t let your bulbs, forsythias, rhododendrons, heathers, camellias or magnolias go to seed.

Remove their flowers when spent.

The amount of bloom, vigor of plants and general look of your yard will be greatly improved by the time you spend deadheading.

3. Get those tools ready.

Sharpen your mower blades now.

A dull blade shears the grass blades and causes their tips to brown out, greatly enhancing the chance of disease.

A dull pruner, lopper and hedge shears also cause cuts to be ragged and rough.

This can harm the plant — in many cases, a slow road to deterioration.

Don’t sit on your laurels quite yet, get your shovels oiled, cleaned and sharpened.

Sand the rust off your hand trowels and tools.

Fix all leaky hoses and tighten the nuts and bolts.

Properly maintained tools make a job safer, easier and much higher quality, making your time more enjoyable.

4. Start up your watering system.

Your plants are growing like gangbusters, so don’t wait until we get a week of sun and wind to dry things out.

Turn on your irrigation systems and check their drip heads, looking for any errant shovel slashes or loose ends.

5. Finish your springtime pruning.

Get those limbs out of your view, off your house and away from other plants.

Growth is rapid now, so don’t waste plant energy in areas that are unwelcome or harmful.

Watch your ornamental and edible fruit trees because suckers and water sprouts are taking off.

Remove these parasites all year as they occur.

6. Sow seeds.

The veggie garden should be rolling now, with soil prepared and compost down.

Plants like broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, radishes, greens, lettuce, onion sets, garlic, beets, kohlrabi, cauliflower, spinach and Swiss chard should be started.

Successive planting all season long will give you a plethora of vegetables throughout the year.

7. Work those berries.

Cultivate the soil and mulch around the berries today. Clean old strawberry leaves, transplant new runners and add copious amounts of lush, old compost for a superb harvest beginning at the end of May.

8. Start your fuchsias, containers and sensitive plants.

Getting an early jump on containers pays off immensely.

Dig out your winterized fuchsias and geraniums.

Let them sit outside in good weather (above 50 degrees) and return them indoors at night.

Plant your pots and baskets in the next few weeks and grow indoors in a very sunny location.

And indulge me on this one: Along with the mandatory basket, plant at least one dahlia this year.

9. Your needy lawn.

For one time only, mow it short. Remove all old debris then use an organic fertilizer and lime if you have not already done so this year.

Remember, over seeding with grass seed is the best weed control because new grass seedlings take up the spaces where weeds would grow.

10. Slugs and bugs.

The pestilence season is prolific as they’ve crawled out of their holes and are hungrily eating your plants at night. A new generation that is already reproducing in April means tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of aphids, chickweed, slugs and ear wigs.

Go get these evildoers while the workload is light.

11. Cut back the gangly

Your mums, fall sedum and asters can get tall spindly and lanky. Solve that problem by cutting them down by half this week (3 inches is reduced to 1.5) and cut them again at the start of June for a fabulous flowering year.

12. Rejuvenate.

If you have not cut back, close to the ground, your roses, honeysuckle, herbaceous clematis, sweet potato vine, potentilla, bush spirea or annual flowering hydrangeas, do so now.

These plants require a rejuvenation prune yearly.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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