NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

April 4, 2012

Tim's Tips: Time to fertilize and water plants

April is typically the month when our outdoor plants begin to awaken from their winter's sleep. The warm weather in March got the plants off to an early start, but our normal weather of late has slowed down that growth. Still, slowly but surely, the plants will continue to grow — and there are things we need to do to help our plants along.

By May, many of our perennials will have grown quickly and be at the point of blooming. Once the plants are in bloom, the flower stalks may fall over from the weight of those blooms. If you add in a bit of rain, many of the flower stalks will fall over.

The classic example of this problem is the peony. These plants put out a tremendous amount of growth in April. They get huge and will put up many flower stalks with giant buds. The flowers will open and be spectacular until rain causes the stalks to fall to the ground.

This can be prevented if you place supports around your plants. You can use either a double ring peony hoop or a grid type plant support. If you place the supports over the peonies now, the plants will grow up through the supports and the foliage and the flower stalks will be held up by the supports. You should remember that the peonies would get big, so you need to use a large enough plant support. Now is the time to do this project before the peonies and other perennials get too big to properly place the supports over the plants.

April is also the time to begin to fertilize your perennials.

As the new growth emerges, the plants need fertilizer. Your spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia, should be fertilized after they are done blooming. Your summer flowering shrubs, like butterfly bushes, should be fertilized now and throughout the season. Your rhododendrons and azaleas only need to be fertilized once they are done flowering. These two plants should only need to be fertilized once.

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