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Courtesy of Sandy Furi
Participants in a demonstration at Diamond Hill General Store learn how to properly trim trees.
Friday, April 19, 2013
If it’s true that April showers bring May flowers, then adding your own proactive plan to Mother Nature’s schedule can significantly increase the promised beauty of your garden. So before the splendor of the season engulfs us, now is the time for a few final yard and garden tasks, such as pruning, transplanting and dividing existing plants.
First, consider whether to prune or not to prune. Understanding where, when and how to trim can mean all the difference in how your trees and shrubs grow. Whether you want to cosmetically shape a plant or simply maintain its height, pruning is a great way to encourage more blooms by reinvigorating mature plants and prompting new or young plants to fill out.
Pruning also allows for more light to enter the interiors of the plant for balanced growth and air movement, which can help resist mildews from starting or spreading.
Our region falls loosely into what is called the “May rule.” If your trees or shrubs, such as forsythia and azaleas, bloom before May, their blooms were already set last year. Do not trim those now if you want to see them bloom this spring. If they need trimming, wait until shortly after all blooms have faded.
Summer bloomers, such as butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and tree or shrub varieties of crape myrtles, bloom on new growth, so they need to be trimmed now. Unless your plant is completely out of control, never trim more than one-third of existing foliage. Excessive trimming can heavily stress the plant, potentially causing the loss of a year of blooms or loss of the plant altogether.
When pruning, individual branch cuts should be made on a 45-degree angle, just above the nearest bud. Prune hedges just below all fading flowers.
If you are considering transplanting a poorly placed or unruly tree or shrub, now is the time. Spring’s cool nights and moist ground provide the ideal environment for re-establishing a plant’s root system.
If the plant has been there for more than a couple of years, consider root pruning at least one month in advance of moving it. This allows the root system to stimulat e new root growth closer to the plant’s crown and can reduce the amount of stress on the plant.
Root pruning is easy: Insert a shovel blade all the way around the plant at its drip line to sever lateral roots and leave it in place. Also, consider trimming back some branches to compensate for the smaller root system as you transplant. Do not fertilize until you see new growth beginning to push through. Then provide an appropriate slow-release product.
If some perennials, such as ferns, hosta and daylilies, have been established for a couple of years, they can be divided. This not only will provide more plants, but also increase the vitality and blooms of the original plants.
For those of us itching to get our vegetables under way, now is the time to prepare your garden soil. Lime is a must, because it raises the PH of the naturally acidic soil found in the Smith Mountain Lake area. The calcium and magnesium, in particular, will ensure your bevy of veggies are not ruined by bloom-end rot.
Vegetables have varying fertilizer needs. Tomatoes, peppers and squash, for instance, are heavy feeders and rely on plenty of organic matter and supplemental fertilizers. Moderate feeders, such as beans, peas, dill and parsley, appreciate supplements, but don’t need them to thrive. The process of crop rotation (moving the location of specific plants in the garden from year to year) is an effective way to control insects, weeds and diseases while enhancing soil fertility and increasing crop yields. So change it up year to year.
When to plant your garden? Keep in mind that our last potential frost date stretches into May. Because of the undulating topography surrounding the lake area, low spots can leave young vegetable plants and tender annual flowers susceptible to damaging frosts, so plant only if you are willing to protect them on those cold nights.
Now let’s get digging.
Note: Bob Siren will be at the Westlake Farmers Market (next to the Lake Inn on Virginia 122) from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. beginning May 4.
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM