MAY 6, 2010
Whatever happened to spring?
So here we are, finally into the month of May with a ton of things to do and we are still wearing our turtlenecks and fleece vests. Whatever happened to spring? Remember back to March when it was warming up nicely and the weekends were sunny? On March 24th we even set a record for the warmest day at 68 degrees. Our gardens were at least 2 weeks ahead of schedule and the weather gurus were telling us that compared to last year at this time we were a full month ahead in terms of heat units. And then came April.
Specifically, April 8th was when it dropped down to 27 degrees here at the nursery and promptly fried all the new growth on my Pieris. My wifeís hydrangeas that were in full spring growth mode came to a crashing halt (no flowers for the second year in a row) and the emerging leaves on my Ginko were stopped in their tracks, not dead but probably stunted for the year. It was as though we were playing red light, green light with Mother Nature and we got stuck in the red light mode. How the game ends is still up in the air.
But alas, despite the pain and suffering of April, we have all made it to May and in reality most of our gardens are back on track now, right where they should be for this time of year. So here are some tasks to keep you busy and out of the bars at least during the daylight hours.
LATE WINTER AND EARLY SPRING BLOOMING PLANTSóHeather, forsythia, candy tuft, Aubretia, creeping phlox and just about anything that has just finished blooming can be cut back and groomed now. This small task will reap huge dividends by keeping your plant compact and tidy and covered with new blooms next season. Left undone you will end up with scraggly and overgrown specimens that after a few years you will want to rip out and replace.
ROSESóThis is a critical month to apply a fungicide and insecticide to prevent the spread of black spot, rust and mildew or the attack of aphids. If you donít like to spray then try a new product by Bonide called Systemic Rose Drench. You simply dilute it and poor it over the soil where it is absorbed by the roots and protects your little pride and joys for 6 weeks from all forms of nastiness. Donít forget to feed them too. I am a big fan of EB Stone Rose and Flower food because it is all organic and it already has all the goodies including alfalfa blended into the mix. After feeding I like to spread some Greenall Soil Booster one inch think. This is a compost rich in chicken manure and earthworm castings that will hold in the moisture, keep the weeds down and suppress the spread of black spot. By the end of this month you should be seeing the fruits of your labor in the form of some lovely rose flowers.
LAWNSóNormally April is the prime month to overhaul lawns but because of the colder and damper than normal weather we had this year May will work just fine. I am amazed at how much gardeners struggle with lawns. It doesnít need to be that complicated. Come take a look at mine and you will be surprised at how healthy it looks with nothing more than a few applications of an organic lawn food, some lime, an occasional spot spraying for clover, regular mowings and some additional water in the summer. Lawns donít need to be and in fact should not be a repository for toxic chemicals. When cared for responsibly they can be an environmental asset.
ANNUALS, PERENNIALS, VEGGIES AND FRUITS, SHRUBS AND TREESóTis the season to be planting all of the above items. You can of course find the largest selection this time of year. Whether new or established plants, spring is also the time to feed them when they are growing and need it the most. Why is it gardeners will spend $200 on plants and not a penny on compost or fertilizer? Dig a hole, throw them in the ground and hope for the best. Isnít that what Mother Nature does? NOT QUITE. We need to remember that Mother Nature has been building her soil for years before she plants a tree and she continues to do so every time a leaf falls on the ground and rots, returning to the soil the nutrients from which it was formed. Mother Nature is a great recycler. We could learn a lot from Her but for now just take my advice and add some compost and fertilizer to your beds this month and everything will be fine. Trust me, Iím a professional.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at the nursery at 425-334-2002 or email at email@example.com