30 April 2010

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Of late, we as a province, particularly southern Alberta, have received an unceremonious dumping of snow!  (This photo was taken in Airdrie by Kim Martin.)  Spring storm season is upon us, and while Central/North Alberta (namely Edmonton region) did not receive the snow but did receive rain, some areas of Southern Alberta experienced power outages, school closures, not to mention treacherous driving conditions.  As of today, however, the system seems to be clearing off and snow has for the most part already melted!  We really need this moisture for the crops!  Recently newscasters reported that Edmonton region has received about one-half its regular amount of moisture for this time of year.  Though we thought we had a lot of snow, apparently we had less than adequate and this last winter is considered "dry".  Unlike Southern Alberta which "enjoys" chinook winds through winter, our snow lasts until warmer temperatures melt it away.  We are enjoying an unusually early spring.  I only hope we do not pay for this later.  A sudden drop in temperatures could be detrimental to trees already budding out.

My mother said her one of her plum trees is already flowering and she is concerned this last bout of winter may damage the blooms and eliminate chances of fruit.  It is a viable concern.  Should flower buds of fruiting trees and shrubs freeze, fruit may never develop.  There is not much the gardener can do to avoid this.  You can try mulching the trees to insulate the roots so the soil does not warm so early, thus possibly preventing the sap from running too early.  This may delay flower bud opening.

This next month is very busy for gardeners!  By now you have probably dethatched, aerated and possibly even fertilised your lawn.  If not, do it soon!  Debris should be removed from all beds.  Save some mulch around your tender perennials and less-hardy shrubs (ie. hydrangeas, magnolias, rhododendrons).  You may begin removing a bit at a time over the next few weeks.  The key to know when to start is to look to the native trees.  Once their buds begin to open, you may start to slowly remove the mulch around your plants (this refers to winter mulch).  If adding new mulch to your beds such as pine or cedar shavings, avoid mulching close to the crowns of your perennials to help prevent rotting of the crown.
Fertilize your perennials this month and your trees and shrubs with a slow-release formula.  Lawns should be fertilized with a higher nitrogen formulation.  This year I used a fertilizer/corn gluten mix.  The corn gluten is a natural weed inhibitor.  It coats all seeds, including new grass seed so don't sow seed until 5-6 weeks following application.  Corn gluten prevents germination of seeds by coating them.  It is more expensive but since Weed 'n Feed formulations have been deemed unsafe for city water due to lawn runoff, it is the best thing available to gardeners.  The City of Edmonton now has a bylaw prohibiting application of Weed 'n Feed.  Applications of weed killers (herbicides) are still allowable but that may change soon too as it has in bigger centers such as Toronto.  It is time to go "au naturale"!  Get out your dandelion tool and be prepared to manually remove weeds.

Take a walk about in your garden, as I did first thing this morning.  If you use a garden journal, take notes of growth, items that need moving, perennials that need dividing.  Now is a good time to divide peonies, hostas, iris, ground covers, and such.  Photograph for future reference.  Enjoy!

May To Do List:

•When temperatures are in the mid teens during the day, begin hardening off annuals started indoors & your bedding plants in a lightly shaded area protected from the wind.  Gradually expose them to periods of sunshine; water and fertilize regularly.  Bring indoors at night if there is a risk of frost or use Reemay cloth to cover them.

•Plant up containers that are small enough to be placed indoors if frost threatens.

•Pansies can be planted outdoors in containers now.  Sow sweet peas.

•Lift, divide, and replant portions of perennials that need rejuvenating.

•Plant hardy vegetables such as peas, beets, and spinach in early May.  Kuhlmann's Market Gardens and Greenhouses planted these crops as early as mid-April this year. (Edmonton)

•Remove dead, weak, or crossing branches from roses; prune back tip-kill to green wood, just above an outward-facing bud.

•Using a dandelion tool, remove early weeds.

•After May long weekend, plant bedding annuals and vegetable seeds.  Be prepared to cover plants if there's a chance of frost.

•Start checking growing tips of delphiniums and monkshoods for caterpillar; pick them out of curled-over foliage and destroy. They may be dusted with a rose/floral dust at this time.

•Fertilize water lilies.  Don't change all the pond water even if it looks like pea soup. This is called algae bloom and will clear on its own in a few weeks.

•When pond temperature is at least  15 degrees C, you may add fish and water lilies.

•Add tender plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, and taro to pond when danger of hard frost is past.

1 comment:

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