What To Do In The Landscape In Early Spring

What To Do In The Landscape In Early Spring

Thank goodness the temperatures are starting to rise on Cape Cod because there is so much to be done in the yard and garden. Here is a pictorial to-do list for the first week of April:

1. Rake leaves where they have gathered and cut old perennials that have remained in the garden all winter down to the ground. This goes for ornamental grasses as well. Get them cut this week!

This perennial sedum is starting to break dormancy at the base of the plant - see the green? Many perennials are starting to grow, so it's important to get the leaves out and cut old stems down asap.

This perennial sedum is starting to break dormancy at the base of the plant – see the green? Many perennials are starting to grow, so it’s important to get the leaves out and cut old stems down asap.

Any perennials that have winter damage should be cut back to get rid of those browned leaves. This Epimedium ground cover (one of the best weed-smothering ground covers for shade) is an example. Using hedge trimmers makes the job go quickly.

Any perennials that have winter damage should be cut back to get rid of those browned leaves. This Epimedium ground cover (one of the best weed-smothering ground covers for shade) is an example. Using hedge trimmers makes the job go quickly.

2. Spread a one inch layer of compost on top of the soil around perennials, shrubs and trees. If you normally mulch do this before the mulch goes down. You can use bagged compost such as Quoddy Blend from Coast of Maine, or have bulk compost delivered. Call the store for pricing on bulk compost. This is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Note: if you haven’t spread fertilizer yet, do so before the compost goes down. I use Flower-tone on perennials and deciduous shrubs, and Holly-tone around evergreens and hydrangeas. It’s too early to spread synthetic fertilizer but these organics can be applied now.

Here is a tree we were spreading compost around last week. Note that we didn't pile it against the trunk and were careful to feather it down by the "root flare." We continued to spread it around this tree so that it went beyond the dripline. An inch of mulch will top this compost.

Here is a tree we were spreading compost around last week. Note that we didn’t pile it against the trunk and were careful to feather it down by the “root flare.” We continued to spread it around this tree so that it went beyond the dripline. An inch of mulch will top this compost.

3. Look for invasive shrubs and vines that the birds have “planted” in your landscape. Bittersweet, Rosa multiflora, and honeysuckle are just three of the problem plants that grow from seeds deposited when birds sit in our shrubs and trees. Now is the time to look closely at your plants so that these invasives don’t take over! Use a sharp by-pass lopers to cut them off at ground level. Note that it’s likely that you’ll have to repeat this cutting a few times over the course of the summer to be sure the plants are gone.

Japanese honeysuckle is easy to spot because it breaks dormancy before other plants. If you see stems that look like these among your shrubs, cut them off. They are not part of the shrubs you planted, and they will take over those more desirable plants if you don't get rid of them.

Japanese honeysuckle is easy to spot because it breaks dormancy before other plants. If you see stems that look like these among your shrubs, cut them off. They are not part of the shrubs you planted, and they will take over those more desirable plants if you don’t get rid of them.

4. Prune roses when you can see the red shoots. They will be starting to break dormancy soon. Be sure to remove all deadwood first.

See the gray stems on this rose bush? That's deadwood. Cut it all out.

See the gray stems on this rose bush? That’s deadwood. Cut it all out. And in most cases roses don’t get pruned way down…every red bud on a rose bush will grow into stems with roses at the end, so the shorter you make the plant the fewer flowers you’ll have.

5. Watch for the hatch of the winter moth larvae! Soon they will be hatching and you’ll want to spray maples, roses, cherries, birches and any other plant they ate last year. Make sure you have Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew on hand.

If you're getting ready to spray trees you'll want the concentrate or hose-end sprayer.

If you’re getting ready to spray trees you’ll want the concentrate or hose-end sprayer.

 

 

10 Comments

  1. cat Logan on March 30, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I spread Milorganite throughout my gardens, then cover with lobster compost. The Milorganite is organic and won’t burn tender new shoots. The lobstercompost is prepared at such a high heat that there are no weed seeds in it. It is easy to do and has really made a difference.

  2. Julia Oliver on March 30, 2017 at 9:11 am

    thank you thank you thank you!

  3. cindy smith on March 30, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    when should I prune my limelight tree ?

    • CLFornari on March 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      You can prune LimeLight hydrangeas any time now. 1. remove anything dead. 2. look for crossed (rubbing) branches and take one away, always removing the ones that head toward the center of the plant. 3. Remove branches that are heading into the center of the plant. After that, clip those that hit the ground, or head off into a wrong direction.

  4. Wendy Winters on April 1, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Some conifers and disiduous trees were planted on my property last fall with a circular mounds of dirt and mulch around each, forming wells at the base of each tree. Should these be raked out now?
    Thanks for all of the tips!

    • CLFornari on April 1, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      Wendy,
      If they were planted last fall you’ll want to be sure that they get a good DEEP soaking once a week through this summer. The idea would be a soaking not only directly over the root balls, but the soil to a few feet on all sides of that root ball so that the roots will grow into that area. Soaking just the area over the root ball, which is the space that most “wells” are created when plants are placed, only gets the root ball wet. This keeps the plant alive but doesn’t encourage root growth into the surrounding soil. So yes, you can rake any rings out that formed the wells, but don’t depend on either hand-watering or shallow irrigation to water these plants well enough to promote growth. If you are depending on an automatic irrigation, be sure that it’s set once a week for long enough to deliver between 3/4 and an inch of rain when measured by a rain gauge, not a can or other container. Or install soaker hoses or set your own sprinkler so that that much water is delivered. This is especially important for the first year a plant is in place.

  5. Paula on April 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Can I fertilize and add compost at the same time?

    • CLFornari on April 2, 2017 at 8:05 am

      Yes, Paula, as long as the fertilizer is organic. If you’re using a synthetic fertilizer you’ll want to wait until later in the spring (May) when the plants are growing more quickly.

  6. Joe on April 10, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    I never got around to giving my Wisteria a hard winter pruning in February. Is it too late to do so in order to get more/bigger blooms this year? Or should I just lightly prune the long thin branches now and then again in July/August?

    • CLFornari on April 10, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Joe, in order to avoid cutting off flowers, prune wisteria right after they bloom. If you prune them now, avoid cutting off the short “bloom spurs” and just remove the long, stringy whips.

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