April 15, 2009
You would be hard pressed to think of it as being mid April. The weather just does not seem to co-operate.
Regardless of the weather, there are things that need to be done in the garden. Each year, people wait until too late to put plant supports around the peonies. Once the buds are opening, a period of rain usually arrives and the flower stalks go crashing to the ground. At this point in time, it is almost impossible to get the plants upright again. You need to get the plant supports around the peonies early in the season. The peonies are beginning to put up new growth and now is the time to get the plant supports in place. You can use peony hoops to hold up the plants. The best type of peony hoop utilizes two wire rings to hold up the weight of the mature plants. The double ring supports also have longer legs to allow you to put more of the leg in the soil while still have sufficient height of the support to hold up a full grown peony. Putting the hoops up now also allows you to get the growth growing through the center of the hoop allowing for maximum support of the plant.
Now is the time to be removing the mulch from around your rose bushes. Now is also the time to prune back your rose bushes. If you see black canes on the roses, you can prune back these canes. Damaged canes should also be pruned back now. Overgrown rose bushes can easily cut back by 1/3 to ½ without hurting the plant. Once you have done your pruning, make sure to apply some lime around the rose bushes and make sure to apply some rose fertilizer to get some new growth out on the rose canes.
Many of you will be patching up a few bare spots in your lawn. Various companies make a packaged mix that contains grass seed, fertilizer and a shredded paper mulch material. The fertilizer helps to get the seed growing while the mulch helps to hold in moisture to get the grass seed to sprout. You should know that the seed and fertilizer tends to settle to the bottom of the bag. If you are going to use one of the packaged patching mixes, dump the entire contents of the package into a wheelbarrow or bucket and mix all the ingredients together before you start using the mix. If you don’t, you will most likely just be spreading the mulch material without having any seed or fertilizer mixed into the mulch material.
Several people have asked me about the differences in the various types of packaged bark mulch. Generally, the question is, which type of mulch is the best. If we are talking about softwood bark mulch, there is really no difference between pine, hemlock, cedar or spruce. All softwood bark is naturally insect repellent and when applied to a depth of 3 inches, all of them will hold down weeds and help to retain moisture in the soil. There are some packaged mixes that are called red cedar or black cedar that really aren’t bark mulch. They are usually dyed wood chips. Wood chips can be a breeding ground for insects. If you buy packaged bark mulch, make sure that it is actually bark that is in the product and not just ground up wood chips.
Last week’s column brought up a question about deadheading pansies. I had mentioned that you should remove the flower head and the flower stalk. Some of you thought that you only had to remove the flower head. If you leave the stem, the plant will try to keep that stem alive. Since the stem will not produce another flower bud, there is not reason to leave the stalk on the plant. Leaving the flower stalk only makes the pansy plant waste energy on keeping alive a part of the plant that really doesn’t serve a useful purpose. When deadheading pansies, always take the flower head and the stem off of the plant.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.