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Your Yard & Garden This Week

Your Yard & Garden This Week

As the days get warmer (thankfully!) and we’re still hunkering down to avoid social contact, many are finding exercise and satisfaction by working in their yards. As one man said to me, “I haven’t seen this many people out raking in their yards for years.” In addition to raking, there are a few things that are going on in the landscape.

What are all these little weeds?

Last fall and over the winter weed seeds were busy germinating. Now, those “winter weeds” are flowering and very noticeable. With the exception of dandelions, which can live from year to year, most of the winter weeds are annuals. For this reason, it’s good to pull them where you can before they go to seed.

These are the most common weeds in yards and gardens in early April. The plant on the left is a young Veronica. The slightly taller one on the right is a bittercress. The bittercress has tiny white flowers that stick up above the plant on wiry stems. The chickweed has small bluish or lavender flowers but they are not on upright stems. Note that the bittercress has opposite leaves that are on the sides of the stems, while the Veronica leaves grow around the stems, not just to two sides.
Here are two mouse-eared chickweeds. The one on the left is paler in color. Why? No idea!
If you don’t want dandelions in your yard, pull them now before they flower and go to seed. Dandelions have a tap root but in the damp soils of spring they are fairly easy to pull out of the ground.

Is it too early to prune blue hydrangeas?

The short answer is yes. Although this is an “early spring” and warmer than usual, April is always a wildcard on Cape Cod. The good news is that right now many Hydrangeas are looking like the buds on the canes came through the winter just fine. But if we have a cold snap, or worse, a hard freeze, in April, those could be destroyed. Additionally, some shrubs haven’t yet woken up, and it’s impossible to know if their buds are alive or not. So the percentage play is to wait to prune them until sometime in May. You can download the handout about how to prune your mophead and lacecap hydrangeas here.

Here is how many hydrangeas are looking right now. Some, in cooler locations, have yet to show large green buds like this, so wait until May to prune them. Note that if your hydrangea has a green bud on the top of the stem, you should not cut that stem back at all! You’ll be cutting off a big, lovely flower if you do. In fact, as the handout says, you should never try and make these hydrangeas shorter. Not only will you have fewer flowers, but the plants will be just as tall by mid-July anyway. There is no way to make them shorter.

How about my large Rhododendrons?

The best handout about how to handle large Rhododendrons was written by the late Cass Turnbull, the founder of Plant Amnesty in Washington State. You can download it here. But one of the best options if the shrub isn’t in your foundation bed is to make them into small trees by pruning limbs from the ground up, exposing the trunks.

These Rhododendrons at Heritage Museums and Gardens have been pruned to be small trees. In this method, you don’t cut the tops of the shrubs to try and make them shorter. Instead, you prune the limbs on the lower area back to the trunks. Take off between a quarter to a third of the lower branches, from the ground up, and let the tops grow as they will. Spring is a good time to do this, either now or after the plant flowers.

Enjoy being out in your yard and garden, and let us know how we can help. We continue to deliver plants and products, and the store and nursery are open regular hours, with inside and curbside pickup.

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