50 April 28, 2010

I look at the calendar and wonder where the month of April has gone.Saturday begins the month of May and shortly we will be in the thick of it in the spring planting season.

There have been any numbers of people who have asked about pruning spring flowering plants. As an example, some of you have forsythia bushes that are overgrown. Many people have said that they thought about pruning the forsythia back last fall but never got around to doing the pruning. It was probably a good thing that procrastination does occasionally pay off. Spring flowering shrubs set their flower buds on new growth. This usually happens during the summer months. If you had pruned back the forsythia last fall, you would have been removing many of this springs’ flowers. Spring flowering shrubs are pruned back immediately after they flower in the spring. This would include plants such as forsythia, rhododendrons and azaleas. It is also important to fertilize these spring flowering plants when they are done flowering. The fertilizer will help the plants to put out new growth and it will help the plants to set many flower buds.

During the past week, we have had a lot of customers come into the store with leaves from their broadleaf evergreens. People were telling us that the plants appeared to have come through the winter OK, but in the last week or so, leaves have begun to turn brown. The most likely cause is damage to the root system during the winter months. If we go back in our minds to this past winter, we had the ground freeze up relatively early and then we got some snow. However, the snow did melt and the ground began to thaw out. During the later part of the winter, the temperatures would fluctuate from warm to cold. We finally settled in to a warm pattern. When the ground freezes and thaws, the roots of shallow rooted plants are damaged. In many ways, this is a normal part of the winter. In late winter to early spring, the ground thaws and air temperatures stay relatively cool. The cool air temperatures means that the leaves of the plants are not exposed to conditions that require the roots to bring water to the leaves. This allows the roots to work at repairing the winter damage during the late winter and early spring. This late winter and spring, the ground thawed out and almost immediately we had sunny and abnormally warmer temperatures. This was great weather for humans who were sick and tired of the winter. The problem was that the roots didn’t get to repair themselves before the warm weather came back. Leaves and stems of the broadleaf evergreens need moisture to replace the moisture lost to the sun and warm temperatures. Initially, the leaves had enough water in the leaves to survive the first bout of warm weather. However, the damaged roots of the plants could not replace the water as fast as the plants were requiring the water. The result was the appearance of damaged leaves in the past few weeks. What you need to do is to help the damaged roots to recover. If you apply some plant starter fertilizer to the soil, you will be encouraging new roots to develop faster. This fertilizer is mixed with water and applied at the base of the plant. Hopefully, this will help the roots to re-form before the really warm weather sets in. It may be beneficial to prune back the plants now to cut back on the amount of top growth that damaged roots need to supply water to. With that being said, I think a wait and see approach to pruning may be the best bet. Mother Nature is fickle when it comes to the weather. A few cloudy days after you apply the fertilizer may make a difference in how much water is required by the leaves. This amount of time may be enough for the damaged roots to heal. Time will tell.

A misconception seems to have come up about our planting season. Some customers who have come into the store have looked at trees and shrubs and said that they want to plant but were afraid that it was too cold to plant. It probably is too cold to plant most annual flowers and tender vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers. Deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs actually prefer to be planted in the cooler temperatures of early spring. This allows the plants to establish a root system before the warmer weather of late spring. If you were thinking of planting trees and shrubs and you were worried about cool weather, stop worrying and get planting! Your plants will be a lot healthier if you do your planting now.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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