This month marks the real start of gardening season for us here in Middle Tennessee. Lots of plants blooming now and I couldn't decide which picture to post, so I thought I'd post a bit of sunny flowers, the crocus and 'Diane' witch hazel. I simply love 'Diane', and again wish to thank my daughter in Louisville for taking me to a wonderful nursery where I purchased Diane. Witch hazels are hard to find!
Here are some things that keep me busy this month:
1. Finish cutting back ALL perennials and ornamental grasses. By now most of your perennials have been cut back, but like me, you may have left one or two up (coneflowers). Now is the time to cut them back. Mums need only be snapped off at the stem base to make room for new growth.
2. Finish pruning and shaping deciduous trees and shrubs. Do NOT cut back spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, quince, deutzia, ninebark, mockoranges and the like, unless you are prepared to sacrifice some of the bloom.
3. Prune out dead areas on Japanese maples and Crepe Myrtles if you notice any. These trees may still be recovering from the deep freeze and drought of 2007.
4. Mow your liriope if you haven't already done so. Check for new growth before mowing so you'll know how low to set your lawn mower or to weedwhack.
5. Finish planting cool season crops in the vegetable garden. Some cool season crops to plant now are: potatoes, onions, peas, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants, radishes, spinach, and beets.
6. Some cool season flowering plants you should get into the ground are: sweet peas, calendulas, and bachelor buttons. You can also plant pansies at this time, keeping in mind they will peter out in the heat of the summer. I prefer to plant pansies in the fall as pansies winter over very well here. Give them a slow release fertilizer to help them reach their full potential now that spring is close.
7. Continue starting seeds. You can stagger your plant dates depending on the type of seeds you grow. Vegetable seeds should also have been started by now. They include: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. The average last date of frost in my upper Middle Tennessee area is 15 April. I try to plan to plant all seed starts and warm weather crops two weeks after that date. That means 1 May is my target date for planting out plants. I will still be planting starts through June too though.
8. Start mowing your lawn. You should start mowing your lawn once you see it has begun growing, and has reached three inches. I cut my fescue to about two inches this time of year. Some people fertilize cool season grasses in the spring. If you are one of them, now is the time. I DO NOT fertilize mine in the spring. Fall is the best time to fertilize cool season grasses. Warm season grasses may not have begun growing at this time so they need no unusual maintenance. You may want to pull the onions and wild garlic and other weeds as they pop up.
9. Apply pre-emergent weed killer. Normally a good rule of thumb is to apply pre-emergent weedkillers like Crabgrass Preventer when you see the forsythia beginning to bloom. I apply a pre-emergent fertilizer to my lawn in May. The reason is because the majority of my weeds are warm weather weeds like goosegrass. If you have a big problem with cool season weeds like henbit, you may want to apply your pre-emergent this month.
10. After your bulbs have all bloomed, dig, divide and replant as necessary. Be sure to add a bulb fertilizer like bone meal or bulb booster. I prefer the bulb booster to bone meal, but both work. Caution: dogs like to dig up the bone meal.
11. Begin preparing your houseplants for the move outdoors. I always groom mine by removing dead leaves and repotting if necessary. I also begin fertilizing and watering more consistently in preparation for the growing season.
12. Fluff up the mulch you applied last fall. If you have some bare areas in the garden, remulch, make sure to place newspapers under the mulch you apply. While tending to your mulch, make sure emerging perennials are not covered by the mulch and pull back all mulch at least 6 inches from all growing plants, both woody and herbaceaous.
13. Check for vole damage. If you find some, be sure to stomp the ground down and clear the area of all debris by the plant. This will discourage the varmits, though not completely stop them from nibbling. I found two peonies that have been attacked by the voles in my garden. I pulled back the mulch, patted down the ground, and applied vole repellent. I hope it works well.
14. Note bare areas in the spring garden by either making a garden plan with gaps noted, or by marking the area with some type of marker so you can come back to it in the fall and add bulbs. In my garden markers always get lost, so I try to plant some kind of marker plant where I want to add materials. For instance: in the fall when I plant tulip bulbs, I plant a monkey grass over the bulbs. This gives me a good idea where the bulbs are located. To find empty areas in the spring. I might divide emerging daylillies and plant them over the bare spots, noting that in the fall I will underplant with spring blooming bulbs.
15. Check on your potted plants you put under the house last fall. They should be moist. If not, add some water. Don't pull them out too early. It will not hurt them to remain in the crawl space another few weeks. But if you see new growth, you may want to bring them out now. I always do. I move these plants to either the coldframe or greenhouse, or even the porch will work for hardening off.
16. If you overwintered cuttings and shrubs in the house or garage. Begin hardening them off in the coldframe, greenhouse or covered porch. Anywhere that is sheltered from strong winds and all day direct sun will work fine.
in the garden....