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As April approaches, warmer weather, increased precipitation, and longer days bode well for increased blooms, workable soil, and vegetable garden planting. Vegetables are the name of your garden game this time of year, however, the weather is still quite unpredictable. Beware of planting cold-sensitive plants, as they will likely need to wait before they are planted because frost is still possible through the end of the month.
Trees and shrubs are pushing out their new spring foliage and flowers. As the tremendous stored up energy starts active growing, this is the time to give your plants a boost with slow release organic fertilizer, such as E.B. Stone. These fertilizers have been formulated for different kinds of plants, so feel free to ask which one is best. In any case, you can’t go wrong with All Purpose. The advantage to organic fertilizer is that it gently feeds the plants over time so as to support the natural growth rate, not push fast growth which causes lanky, over-sized plants.
All E.B. Stone fertilizers contain natural microbes called mycorrhizae which are one of the secrets to their effectiveness. These are the magicians that attach to plant roots to help them be vigorous, disease resistant, productive. The microbes can be destroyed by direct sunlight, so when adding these fertilizers to existing plants, it should be scratched in or covered with compost or surrounding soil and watered in so the microbes can get down to the roots as soon as possible.
April is also an ideal time to continue garden maintenance by cleaning out brown, dead spring foliage, cutting back ornamental grasses, and dethatching and fertilizing lawns. Begin weed prevention measures while they are still small and manageable. Additionally, you may also use this time to create some raised garden beds in areas of poor drainage or plan and cultivate an area of your yard to prepare for vegetable and fruit planting.
FESTIVAL OF SLUGS: April is time to either bait slugs with Sluggo (straight iron, eat it for breakfast), or put out the copper strips that give a slight electric shock to encourage them the opposite direction. We carry both.
Begin other prevention measures such as spraying apples and pears with Orchard Spray. Bait for pests like slugs and cutworms with Sluggo Plus. As warm weather arrives, aphids and spittlebugs will become more prominent but are more an esthetic than actual issue. A good strong stream of the hose will knock them off and they won’t return, but if you miss any, they reproduce overnight. Or you can leave them as food for birds and other beneficial insects. Keep your plants well fed and watered and you’ll have many fewer insect problems.
Support your existing edibles by applying compost and mulch to berries and perennial vegetables. Blueberries get a boost from adding acid balanced fertilizer E.B. Stone Rhododendron, Azalea, Gardenia fertilizer—yes it works wonders for all those plants! Mulching and weeding can also help deter pests and make for easier summer gardening.
Onions and potatoes and other root vegetables are ready to go into the ground if you haven’t planted them already. It is also time to sow seeds outdoors for half-hardy vegetables. They love cool weather and moisture. Look to sow seeds outdoors for artichokes, beets, carrots, parsley, parsnips, chard, spinach, arugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts, collards, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, potatoes, chives, leeks, scallions, peas, lettuce and all herbs but basil. In late April, as the soil warms, you should look to sow seeds for cabbage and runner beans. Other vegetables may be ready to go into the ground mid-month. By using a soil thermometer, you can easily determine if it is time to plant warmer weather vegetables. Soil should be consistently 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above in order to begin planting starts of vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, chives, endive, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes, rhubarb, rutabagas, spinach and turnips. To be safe, it’s a good idea to have a frost blanket on-hand in the event we get a late-season frost.
April is an ideal time to plant annual and perennial summer blooming flowers like marigolds, geraniums, and coneflowers. If you haven’t already, planting hardy trees, evergreens, and shrubs while the weather is still cool helps them get rooting in before the heat of summer. Cornell Farm has the best selection of rhododendrons and azaleas, magnolias, redbuds, crabapples, shade trees, flowering cherries, wisteria, and clematis right now!
Sow seeds outdoors for half-hardy flowers such as: Borage, Nigella, Nasturtiums, Calendula, Feverfew, and Coreopsis. Finally, move plants that are outdoors for the warm summer months (such as tomatoes and peppers started from seed) to a cooler place in your home to begin acclimating their soil temperature. It is likely these plants will be ready to go into the soil towards the end of April.
Check for any houseplants that may need to be repotted or need increased watering or fertilizing due to dry-out.
As late April approaches, sow seeds indoors for basil, cucumber, melons, pumpkins, squash, ground cherry, tomatillos.
Enjoy the warmer, spring days and remember to get outside each day. Breaking outdoor gardening tasks into manageable, 30-minute chunks can improve our mood and result in a fantastic summer garden.