by PETE AMYOONY
At this time of year do you find yourself wandering around the garden with nothing to do? I really doubt that! It seems, around this time of year, so many things need to be done that we gardeners hardly know where to begin. Some years are a little kinder with a mild winter and the beautiful sunny days in April and May. However, there seems to be no end to the list of things to do around the garden.
If you haven’t raked up the leaves and dead grass from the lawns, get them done soon as the new growth makes it harder and harder to get them out as time goes on. Please don’t burn or send this valuable source of nutrients to the dump! Compost these “goodies”.
If you have the garden turned, this is a great time to plant peas, broad beans, onions, garlic, potatoes and other crops that don’t mind the cool soil and cold nights. Be really careful not to put in beans, as they will rot in cool, damp soil.
One warm weather crop that can be planted now is corn. With the extra early start, you will have a better chance of getting it to ripen in August before the weather turns cool and it stops maturing. If a frost threatens around the end of May when it is just poking out of the ground, you can hoe the soil right up over the plants and they will poke up again a few days later.
Please, don’t even think of planting out any warm weather plants such as pumpkin, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc until the nights warm up a lot more. Most of these imports from warmer climates can’t even stand getting chilled below 50F (10C). They go into shock and just never seem to recover and grow well afterward. You can start them now in the house or greenhouse or buy a few bedding plants from your local growers. By waiting until the end of the first week of June to set out these plants, they will catch up and pass any that are set out while the nights are so cold.
It is still not too late to divide any perennials that bloom later in the season. If the top growth has already started, most can be cut back when you divide the clumps and they will re-grow when replanted or set in their new spot. Always remember to add some compost, bone meal and well-rotted manure to the hole and mix it in well before replanting any root divisions. This is the highest time of growth for most plants and they will take off quite quickly if divided now. Those that bloom in the spring or early summer are best divided just after the bloom period.
Small shrubs, rose bushes, or trees can also be moved now. The secret is to keep as much of the root-ball intact as possible. It is also good to prune some of the top growth back when you move them to make up for any roots that you have damaged in the moving process. The idea is to keep a balance between the top of the tree or shrub and the roots. If you have damaged ¼ of the roots, you should remove ¼ of the top to keep the balance.
While you are at it, why not take some time to pick out a spot for that new hammock or chair swing that will entice you to take a break from the never-ending chores that need to be done in the garden. Learn from the plants. It is o.k. to “just vegetate”!