Every spring there are April Fools in the garden. These are the anxious gardeners who set out warmth-loving plants like tomatoes, basil, coleus and geraniums too soon. A few warm days do not mean the end of cool nights. Night temperatures below 50 degrees can stunt, warp and fatally depress some of the plants you see for sale at nursery and gardeners now.
Here is a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for the unpredictable month of April:
Do prune broken branches down to a joint or node and remove the four D’s from any plant: that would be anything dead, diseased, damaged, or anything deranged or going in the wrong direction.
Don’t prune marginally hardy plants such as hardy fuchsia, salvia or escallonia. These plants need to stay dormant or asleep for as long as possible as they hate cold weather. Pruning can wake them up too early.
Do add roses, berries, trees, shrubs and perennials to the landscape now (I will recommend the best perennials during a class at Windmill Gardens on April 7).
Do not add hanging baskets of petunias, hydrangeas or mini roses in full bloom from a florist (these have been forced) or tender succulents such as echerverias, or agave. Wait until all danger of frost has passed in mid-May.
Do plant cool season crops like peas, lettuce, kale, spinach and onions.
Don’t plant the seeds of warmth-loving crops such as beans, corn, cucumber or tomatoes outdoors. Wait until late May or even June when the soil has warmed.
Do get outside every day if possible and weed, weed, weed. For every weed you pull in spring you can avoid millions of weed seeds and hours of summer weeding.
Don’t spray chemical weed killers or use weed-and-feed products during cool, cloudy or rainy weather. Try to avoid these pesticides if you can. Pulling weeds is better for you and the soil. The uprooted weed leaves air channels in the soil for better flow of oxygen and water.
Do invest in a stand-up dandelion weed puller. There are many versions of this traditional weeding tool and you can quickly remove the dandelions in your lawn and aerate at the same time. You do know you need more exercise.
Do mow the lawn when the grass blades are 3 inches tall.
Don’t take off more than one-third of the grass blade. Just say no to the low mow. A taller lawn will shade out weeds and use less water and fertilizer.
Do attend gardening seminars and learn the latest ways to conserve water and work less in your garden. Local nurseries offer free seminars or check out my website at www.binettigarden.com.
Most important: Don’t forget to notice the blooming, beautiful world around you. You don’t need to garden to appreciate the spring bulbs, busy birds and flowering trees and shrubs. Take a hike, a walk or just a moment to appreciate how green and gorgeous Wester Washington becomes every April.
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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens.” For answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022.
Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.