COLUMN: Wake up your garden now
Before gardening season hits full throttle, it’s time to awaken the garden and get a few spring chores off your garden to-do list.
Clean up winter damage
Walk around your yard to inspect trees, shrubs and other overwintering plants for damage. Prune broken branches while plants are still dormant. Always use clean, sharp tools designed for the size of the cut. Hand pruners can handle the smallest branches. Use loppers for branches up to 1-1/2 inches in diameter; a handsaw is best for any branches bigger than 3 inches in diameter.
Check young tree bark for animal damage
You can loosely cover wounds with burlap; check monthly and remove when the wound is healed. Unfortunately, winter burn damage to evergreens is permanent. Cut back the damaged branches now.
If you didn’t cut these back in the fall, do so now. Clean any garden debris or fallen leaves. If your perennials had disease issues last year, such as powdery mildew or leaf spot, it’s critical to clean up any debris since diseases can overwinter in the debris. To prevent disease issues from reoccurring, a clean garden, clean tools and clean gloves are important.
Spraying a fungicide early, when foliage is about six inches from the soil, and before any disease is present, will help prevent reoccurrence this year. The trick with fungicides is to inoculate plants ahead of time so that the disease doesn’t have a chance to start and spread. Be sure to read all fungicide product labels completely and ensure that the plant and the disease are listed on the label.
Some shallow-rooted perennials such as coral bells can heave out of the ground due to winter’s frost and thaw cycles. Just press down on the plant’s crown and gently push the plant back down into the soil.
If you planted bulbs last fall, now is the time to clear away any mulch, leaves or any garden debris: as soon as you see the green foliage pop out of the ground. Early spring is also a good time to make notes as to where you might want to add more bulbs to plant later on in the fall.
Did you overwinter any tubers? It’s too early to plant them, but definitely check on them. If you see pale sprouts, try to slow down the sprouting process by moving them to a dark indoor place. Consider planting the tubers temporarily in containers if you see more than four inches of growth. Keep containers in a protected place (where it doesn’t freeze) until it’s time to transplant outside.
It’s the foundation of all gardens. It’s the perfect time to prepare it for the season or to add organic matter to improve it. Just don’t start too early; wait until all snow has melted and it’s dry enough. Soil is fragile; you can compact it if you walk around beds before the soil has a chance to thaw and drain. Consider a soil test. Before you add anything to the soil, consult our CCE website, http://cceoneida.com/resources/soil-testing to see how to take a soil sample and get it tested.
As long as the soil is workable, early spring is a great time to transplant trees or shrubs. You can also add mulch or compost. Be sure the soil is well drained and ready to be worked. Wake up your garden and get some of your chores done early this year.
If you missed signing up for the current master gardener volunteer training, we can put you on our list for the next upcoming training. For more information, call us or visit http://cceoneida.com/ and click on Facebook and YouTube icons at the bottom of the page for great research and garden information. Or phone 315-736-3394, ext 100.
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