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.
Your deciduous and evergreen trees can be fertilized now.
Fertilizing your plants now will also help their roots recover from damage caused by the soil's freezing and thawing during the winter.
The soil is very dry. Many of your plants need to be watered now. Plants use water to nourish the leaves and the flowers. Many of your spring flowering shrubs will only flower for a short period of time if they don't have sufficient water in the soil.
Without adequate water, some of your plants may not survive the damage from the freeze and thaw cycle. It's time to get the hoses out and get water to those plants.
Well, I guess I have given you enough to keep you busy for now. I'll talk to you again next week.
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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.Harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.