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 April

Happy Earth Day!

Highlights

*  Deer get bolder after a long, cold winter 
*  Seeding indoors
*  Spring cover cropping
*  Dividing
*  Tilling
*  Pruning
*  Pest Management

Grazing Deer        (click to enlarge)               Running Deer

In the Seeding Room

Seeding under LightsSeeding your own plants isn't for everyone.   You're committed to daily watering, thinning, light needs, and other coddling for several weeks.  But it beats being at the mercy of local retailers, especially if you're looking for quality or varieties not normally grown by commercial nurseries. 

Plant heating pads, sold by many seed companies, speed up germination time.  They are expensive, but if treated right will last for years. 

It's tough to tell whether poor germination is due to sloppy seeding practices (human error) or seed viability.  Seed package instructions should give seeding tips.  Some seeds require light for germination, some need cooler temperatures.  Depth of planting is critical for all seeds. 

Perennials are not listed here, because we seed them in July for fall transplanting.

As noted last month, hotter peppers (e.g., jalapenos, habaneros, piquin, Thai, Tabasco) are seeded earlier than other peppers (cherry, Hungarian, cayenne, sweet). 

Seeding Indoors - Early April:

lettuce (winter)
oregano
sage
sorrel
sweet marjoram

Seeding Indoors - Mid to Late April

Vegetables, Herbs: lettuce (winter, summer)
peppers not identified as super hot
tomatoes*
basil
okra

Ornamentals: cosmos
marigolds
morning glory
runner beans
zinnias
hollyhock

*  Paste tomatoes should not be seeded till the end of the month, so they are timed to coincide with the maturity of peppers -- an essential for chileheads who can their own salsa! 

Easter lilies and  forced bulbs may not survive if planted outside after they finish blooming indoors. 

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In the Garden

 Drought and Pest Management

Mulch applied last year to lily, peony,asparagus is removed, leaving just enough to protect buds against late frosts, but not enough to encourage rotting. . . or to provide cover for rodents who fine refuge in our meadow, but come to feast in the garden.

Direct Seeding

Vegetables, Herbs:   

carrot
beets
chamomile
dill, cilantro, and   parsley*
peas
spinach

Ornamentals:  

morning glory
nasturtium
pansy
poppy
sweet pea
sunflowers
zinnias           

* Cilantro and dill should be direct seeded, because these two biennial herbs resent transplanting.  Since both the seeds and the leaves are used in cooking in both plants, and since they each readily reseed themselves, let some flowers go to seed for a fall crop or for  next year's garden.  That's the kind of crop every gardener likes!  Cilantro readily reseeds, even after tilling.   Save a spot for succession planting in the same spot, so you will have some available for salsa when tomatoes and peppers have ripened.   

Jerusalem artichoke and horseradish are very persistent perennials and may become weeds in your garden. Plant them only where there is ample room for their growth.  

Cover Cropping

Gardeners who have the space can seed a  cover crop this month of buckwheat, which  matures in 30 days, in time for a fall planting of greens. 

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Dividing

Most  perennials s can be divided in early spring or fall, though one source says fall gives plants more time to become established before the drought season sets in.   Most sources agree on a general rule of thumb: spring and summer floweringshould be divided in fall and fall flowering plants, in spring.   

Planter grows   spring-blooming delphinium, columbine, foxglove.  (We also grow summer-blooming gaillardia , Shasta daisy, Sweet William, and bee-balm.)

Fall-flowering perennials (asters, mums) can be divided, although some say it's best to wait till after spring-flowering plants have bloomed.

Erratic weather conditions -- early frosts or a spring heat wave --can confuse  perennials like daylily, shasta daisy, and echinacea.  Mulch helps protect against these rapid changes.

Hardy bulbs like gladiolus, iris, and daylilies can be planted later in the month.   In some areas,  bleeding heart, roses, rhubarb, berries, and strawberries can be set out, though many catalogue companies will not deliver them till after your frost-free date.

Cuttings from shrubs and trees may be rooted. 

Pruning

"When forsythias bloom, roses are pruned."

Hybrid tea, floribundas, and grandiflora roses can be pruned before blooming.  Wait till after flowering before pruning climbers and ramblers.

Trees should be pruned before new growth begins.  Late flowering shrubs like buddleia and hydrangea can be pruned, but use caution.  Some varieties should not be pruned till after blooming.

Pest Management

These are some do's and don'ts from the Nebraska Extension Service fact sheet on Integrated Pest Management.

* not crowding plants
* using drip irrigation
* controlling weeds with mulch or black plastic
* adding organic matter to soil while tilling
* mulching
* consider the plant's needs when siting (soil, sun, moisture, etc.)
* disposing of diseased plant material. 

All these practices will give plants a head start in fighting the elements.    And, they conserve water and energy.

Visit our Weather and Pest Log.

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