In the Spring Garden – guest blogger Billerica Garden Club

The Billerica Garden Club is very active in the community. They hold their May plant sale each year just in time for Mother’s Day (the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend), often exhibit at the New England Spring Flower Show, participate in Yankee Doodle Homecoming, prepare corsages for the annual Sweetheart Dinner for seniors who have been married to each other for 50 years or more, and participate in the annual Green Up Clean Up Day. In addition they have adopted several areas in town to maintain – Billerica Town Common, Memorial Walkway behind Billerica Memorial High School, as well as Marshall Island in Town Center. And as a special project in the community members of the club present gardening projects at area nursing homes and the senior center, including maintaining a butterfly garden at Billerica Crossings
In The Spring Garden
How to handle Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs in April
Did you know that the perfect time to plant dahlias, lilies, and gladiolas is during April? Well, these flowering bulbs actually do well during this month, so make sure that you mix a few organic ingredients or some compost into the soil where these are planted (combine bulb fertilizer, as well as aged manure and peat moss). This certainly will help nourish both the soil and flowers.

Apart from flowering bulbs, you can also start planting annual seeds. You can plant asters, cosmos, marigolds, and even zinnias for starters. Now, other than annuals, if you have perennials, they have to be divided. They can be moved into a different area of your patch, or extras can be given out to your gardener friends. In addition to this, if you have a water garden like a pool or pond, utilize this by adding aquatic plants after the first half of the month.

What to do with houseplantsYour houseplants can do well with a little bit of spring-cleaning in the month of April. And one of the best gardening tips for this would be to remove irregularities such as yellowing leaves, withered flowers, or even dead branches. Plants may also be able to breathe better when the dust from the leaves are removed using light spraying. Pinching is also advisable especially for plants, as this helps invigorate new growth and volume. Continue to inspect for insects and fertilize at half strength. Cut the plants back if they are getting leggy.

Nourish your Flower BedsShoots have been driving up out the ground for weeks now, so you know that Mother Nature is doing her part to get your flowers and shrubs back to their beautiful selves. Why not give them a boost with a layer of compost? Clear out any old leaves or sticks, weed your gardens and then sprinkle an inch of compost throughout your flowerbeds. Water the beds and then cover with mulch to keep it in all in place.

The Practice of Container GardeningHave you ever tried bringing plants inside your home or placing them out on your garden using different kinds of containers? You probably have but have not been too conscious of how to prepare it the right way. Container gardening can be very beneficial in a lot of ways. So if you happen to have a very spacious garden (an area that you’re too lazy to fix but would still want to have plants around), or live inside an apartment or condo unit (an area that has no yard space for use), then you can definitely do some container gardening at your very own convenience.
Whether you’re into some flower, herb or container vegetable gardening, the material for which you will plant and store these should have a good drainage system. You can choose to use an array of containers such as plastic bins, baskets (anything that will help hold in your organics), but you will always have to take note of the drainage factor.

As an alternative to planting your organics under the ground, you can fully concentrate on the containers itself especially if these were houseplants (for indoor container gardening). When growing different kinds of plants, you also get the chance to nurture these with some well-preserved soil. When the soil is of high-quality, then you can be assured that your plants will grow free from diseases. Other than that, when you do this kind of gardening, you’re also eliminating the possibility of weeds cluttering your garden. Apart from that, you are also given the chance to move your containers around, should the need arises.

Check out more information at: http://www.gardenworms.com/blog/gardening/practice-container-gardening/

Is your garden doing double-duty? Is it a fun, happy view that exudes energetic energy? That’s the philosophy behind the selection of Tangerine Tango as Color of the Year for 2012, according to color expert Catherine Falqoust. Check this website out for more ideas on colors in your garden: http://blog.chron.com/lazygardener/2012/03/color-tricks-for-your-garden/

What about planting seeds? If you are growing plants from seed, don’t oversow. For fine seed, mix it with sand so it is easier to spread over a larger area.

Perennials and Flower Borders• If you didn’t clean-up your borders in March, do it now. (It’s important to remove weeds now while they’re still small and haven’t flowered yet it’s also easier to remove now instead of when they are fully matured.)
• Cut back all ornamental grasses to 6-12″ if you haven’t done it already, and don’t wait any longer to do it. It may already be difficult to cut off the dead leaves without also harming the new ones.
• Plant, divide or move perennials – it’s now or never! Okay sure, you can still do it in May, especially planting new ones, but it’s best to get all this jostling around of perennials done before it gets hot. Continue dividing perennials. If the perennial bed was fertilized in the fall no need to do it now — the plants haven’t used the fall treatment yet. Remember that compost, which helps the plants take up nutrients by maintaining good soil structure, is not fertilizer. Continue making notes of the location of flowering bulbs and bloom time — you’ll be glad you did when it comes time to plant more bulbs in the fall.

Here are a few key tasks for the month of April:
• This is the last opportunity to plant any bare root trees, shrubs or hedging.
• Herbaceous perennials like Yarrow or Butterfly Weed or Bearded Iris over time can form large clumps and become very congested. Now is an ideal time to divide and re-plant. Simply dig out large clump and separate using garden fork or spade and re-plant. Ideally this process should be repeated every 3-5 years. Check out the website from Colorado State University for more information on Herbaceous perennials: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07405.html
• Time to plant summer flowering bulbs (Dahlia, Gladiola, Lily etc). It’s also a good time to plant evergreen shrubs and trees.
• You can also apply a top dressing of bark mulch to planted beds to conserve moisture and impede weeds. It also creates an attractive neat and tidy look to the border. (Tip: water soil before applying top dressing)
• Continue to cut/remove the faded blooms of spring bulbs; do not remove foliage for at least 4-6 weeks in order to allow the bulbs to replenish food resources for next year. Lawns can be cut more regularly now especially if ground conditions are firm and dry. When mowing begins, set mower blades to cut high — 2 inches for shady lawns — to encourage well grass rooting and discourage weed growth. If the lawn is mowed on schedule, the clippings will not need to be removed. They will decompose and return essential nitrogen to the lawn.
• General lawn care includes tidy edges, rake and remove thatch. Apply a weed & feed to encourage healthy grass growth and discourage weeds, but be careful, grass can be easily damaged ‘scorched’ with excess dosage, if in doubt use liquid feeds. Wet area first before applying liquid feed. It’s also time to check and start your in ground sprinkler system to make sure everything is working correctly.
• Check planted borders for any new weeds; a quick tidy up with the hoe will significantly reduce the need for any weeding later in season. Remove any blooming invasive weeds such as Dandelion which will self seed profusely throughout the garden. Might help to remember, ‘One year’s seeding is seven years weeding’.

In a normal spring daffodils can be taken inside to enjoy them. The daffodils that are open and in full bloom tend to get destroyed, but the ones still in bud are more resilient, so you can pick them for vases inside the house.

You can add to hanging baskets and containers a water-retaining gel or even to the compost, which will swell up and retain moisture for a lot longer. Give your plants a good watering two to three times a week, stopping just as baskets start to drip, but before the water runs out the base of the containers, so as not to waste too much.

Are you keeping up your Garden Journal with bloom dates and spring events in this most unusual spring? Make notes now of the places where spring-blooming bulbs, planted next fall, will look perfect next year.

Check out the book on Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World
by Lynn M. Steiner and Robert W. Domm
In recent years, awareness has risen not only about the problem of water collecting in places where it shouldn’t, but also the problem with run-off, and what to do with it. All sorts of toxins run unfiltered into our waterways. Not good. What’s a homeowner to do? One of the answers comes in the form of a pretty simple solution: rain gardens. Lynn Steiner and Robert Domm have compiled a comprehensive guide for constructing them in their new book, Rain Gardens. With explanations that are easy to understand, and illustrations and photographs that show and tell, the home gardener can plan and build a rain garden for their own property with confidence.
Check out the review at: http://www.hortmag.com/gardening-book-reviews/book-review-rain-gardens

What about those pesky animals that pick at your flowers and vegetables? One good way to protect your garden is to put a chicken wire fence around it. You can also put old shear curtains over blueberry bushes they make very good netting and if you wrap a brown paper around the root of your tomato plants and leave about 3 inches above the soil line that will protect them. Also, Marigolds planted throughout the garden will keep Aphids away and are quite beautiful to look at. These are just a few ideas for helping protect your hard earned work creating that beautiful garden. More to come next month. By the way does anyone have any ideas on how to get rid of wild Turkeys they are all over my neighborhood!

One last thing that needs to be talked about and that is Poison Ivy – that nasty plant that causes us extreme annoyance and now would be a good time to kill it before it starts to grow too much. Last year I tried something different see the recipe below:

Heat to boiling1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of salt until clear then add 8 drops of liquid detergent after you heat the vinegar with salt then let cool and spray or pour over Poison Ivy and it will kill the plant and anything else that is there. I tried this last year and it worked great! Keep in mind that it will kill any plant that is in the soil. This is all natural and no side effects!

Happy Gardening!

Become a member of the Billerica Garden Club by visting their website at https://www.bigtent.com/groups/gardenclub. Or join your own local garden club. They provide an invaluable service within any community

One response to this post.

  1. Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article – In the Spring Garden guest blogger Billerica Garden Club …. Thanks for supplying this information.

    Reply

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