A GROWING CONCERN: April showers bring the to-do list

LET US ALL hope that anything “April Foolish” is over for this year … right?

We have endured an end-of-year wind storm knocking out power for days and bringing down trees.

January had record-breaking high temperatures and an early bloom followed by the snowiest February in anyone’s memory.

Then here on the Olympic Peninsula, we had the driest March on record with April bearing down on us with summer-like temperatures, weeds, flowers, long grass, caterpillars and the works on their way.

Well, get a hold of your tool shed because here comes your April to-do list.

Let me start with one of my best trade secrets.

1. The double pinch (maybe even triple).

The most beautiful fall flowering perennials are asters, garden mums and autumn sedums.

All these suffer from their natural characteristic, which is to get too tall and fall over.

The solution is simple and greatly improves the plant, making it far more prolific.

When these plants get 3 to 4 inches tall, cut away an inch using your dedicated garden scissors.

I use my un-gloved finger to pinch out the very center.

The when they are 6 to 8 inches tall, repeat the same method, this time removing an inch or two.

2. Add plenty of organic material.

As we have discussed numerous times before, organic material is the miracle component of great soil, precisely because of its water-holding capacity.

Make sure your garden soils and containers consist of copious amounts of organic material because it is the miracle drug of the flower world.

3. 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.

And do not forget peas.

4. Pea-lific.

Go out this week and buy both edible pod peas and shucking pea seeds, along with the mandatory sweet peas.

These plants will last until next autumn’s frost and the scent of sweet peas is unbeatable.

5. 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 the end of May.

6. Raise your mower up.

I don’t know how many times I must speak power to truth, but raising the mower blade up to a very tall setting, 3½ inches or higher, conserves vast amounts of moisture.

The ground is shaded from the sun and wind, so it dries out at a very slow rate.

It is really that simple.

7. Get those tools ready.

Sharpen your mower blades now.

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

A dull pruner, loper and hedge shears also causes cuts to be ragged and rough.

This can cause a slow road to deterioration.

But don’t stop with blades: Get your shovels oiled, cleaned and sharpened.

Sand the rust off your hand trowels and tools.

Fix all leaky hoses and tighten nuts and bolts.

Properly maintained tools make a job safer, easier and much higher quality.

8. Get the water systems going.

With this weather pattern, your plants are growing like gangbusters.

Don’t wait until panic sets in.

Turn on your irrigation systems; check and repair them this week.

9. Finish spring pruning.

Get those errant 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.

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

Remove those parasites all year as they occur.

10. Deadhead your early bloomers.

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

Don’t let your bulbs, forsythias, rhododendrons, heather, 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 deadheading.

11. Bulb mania.

We are in the thick of spring flower and bulb production, so the maintenance of our bulb beds is of primary concern.

This will greatly improve next year’s flower count.

When deadheading, cultivate the soil, breaking up the surface crust.

Deadheading will be ongoing, so be sure to weed the area because it very easy to do so now (and your weeds are all pregnant).

Broadcast a general flower fertilizer along with pelletized lime, for not only will your bulbs be fed, but the soil will be full of nutrients come time to plant your annual flowers.

This is the time to admire other bulbs, finding the varieties you like and plan to fill your vacant spots for next year.

12. Start your fuchsias, containers and sensitive plants.

Getting an early jump on your 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 each night.

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

And indulge me on this one: Along with the mandatory basket, I would like everyone to have at least one dahlia this year.

You will not believe the praise in August, September and October.


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] (subject line: Andrew May).

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