I would guess many of you never thought April would arrive. Not that the month of April always brings spring-like weather in New England. When you are this close to the ocean, cold and damp is usually the norm.

The weather does seem to be bouncing back and forth this spring. For many gardeners, this past weekend was the first real chance to get outside to see what was going on in their yards. Let me fill you in on a few things that have come to light in the past week.

For some strange reason, the Japanese red maple tree appears to have suffered a lot of damage this past winter. We have had a number of people come into the store with stories of split branches on the Japanese red maples. The damage may have been caused by the ice storm or from the season's heavy snow load. Either way, people are seeing cracks in one or more major branches. Usually, the crack is not a major break that causes the branch to hang off the tree. From what I'm hearing from customers, the break is usually a hairline crack or a crack that allows you to see just the inside of the stem. If you haven't checked on your Japanese red maples, you should take a look at the branches soon. Cracks should be sealed with grafting wax to prevent insects and diseases from getting in them.

Moss also appears to be a problem on many lawns. The snowy winter kept the soil moist and allowed the moss to grow almost all season long. You can't just rip out moss and expect it to go away. You need to kill the moss and remove it from the lawn. Once the moss is dead, you should loosen up the soil and add some gypsum to it. You should also add a fair amount of lime to the soil. Gypsum helps to break up compacted soil, and the lime reduces the pH level (acidity) in the soil. Poor drainage and acidic soil are two of the leading causes of moss growth in our yards.

The question of seeding lawns has come up in recent days. My feeling is the soil is still too cold for grass seed to germinate. Sure, you can put seed down on the lawn. But the longer the seed sits there, the more likely it is to wash away or become bird seed. In our area, it is usually mid-April before the ground warms up enough for grass seed to successfully germinate. I have seen years where seed hasn't sprouted until mid-May. If you want to seed your lawn, just be patient.

Well, that's all for now. I'll talk to you again next week

¢¢¢

Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His Web site is www.Harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.