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Growing Wisdom

Early and mid-April gardening chores for the weekend

The second week of April brings about the opportunity to do a lot of yard work if you live in an area where the snow is gone. This time of year there is no shortage of chores, but with limited time, there are certain tasks more critical than others.

There are all sorts of opinions on some of these things and you can likely find someone who might give you a different answer, but these are my top recommendations for early April.

Lawns
The grass is beginning to green up and you can help this process by adding some fertilizer and lime to your yard. The best way to know what your lawn needs is to get a soil test. These are easily obtained from the University of Massachusetts. You learn more about the process at http://soiltest.umass.edu/

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Since I know most of you wonít get a soil test, I do recommend a slow release organic fertilizer this time of the year along with lime and corn gluten for crabgrass prevention. The corn gluten has nitrogen in it, so if your lawn is very healthy you can forgo the fertilizer.

It's very important you not put down crabgrass preventer and seed your lawn unless the product is specifically made for that purpose. If you use corn gluten and then seed your lawn the gluten will prevent the seed from germinating.

I donít recommend seeding your lawn until later this month or the first two weeks in May. My reasoning is that the soil is often not warm enough in April for the grass to germinate quickly. The chances of a hard rain washing away the seed or birds eating the seed are high if you put down grass too early.

Garden beds
Try to get up the dead leaves and sticks from around your gardens. Rose leaves can carry spores of disease and these can get onto your plants this spring. Fresh mulch helps conserve moisture and keeps out weeds. Seeing bare soil around your plants isnít a good thing. The soil will dry out much quicker and weeds have an easier time establishing themselves in this situation.

If you are putting mulch around trees donít pile the mulch up around the trunk. Mulch that looks like a volcano around the trunk of the tree is too high and can quickly damage or even kill the tree.

I donít recommend pruning any plants now which flower before June 15th. The reason for this is you will take off the blooms. I like to enjoy the early flowering trees and shrubs and then prune. You can however prune Rose of Sharon this weekend. This small tree/shrub can be pruned heavily and I have taken as much as 3 or 4 feet off of an eight foot specimen.

If you want to plant some vegetables in mid-April you can put in seeds of peas, lettuce, carrots and radish. I donít recommend starting peas or root crops inside. Lettuce can be started inside and then moved outside if you wish. Broccoli, kale, cabbage, and other cold weather crops can also be planted this weekend. I like to work some organic vegetable fertilizer into the soil before I plant. Another trick is to put a handful of composted cow manure (it doesnít have an odor), into the hole when you plant. Just be sure to mix it in with the existing soil.

Other things I will be doing this time of year is sharpening and cleaning any tools I didnít get to in the fall, replacing rakes and fixing leaky hoses. All in all there isnít enough time for everything, but itís all worth the effort come summer.
Follow my tips and ask garden questions on Twitter @growingwisdom.