Spring is arriving agonizingly slowly this year – a good two weeks late. But with slightly warmer weather and longer interludes between showers, now is a good time to start Springtime chores.
Clean up leaves, twigs and branches, turn the compost pile you left under a tarpaulin to mature over the winter, and fertilize the grass, shrubs and trees. Check what each one needs and apply sparingly. I use regular Pro-Gro fertilizer for the lawn and most perennials. Acid-loving shrubs (all evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas) will appreciate Holly-Tone fertilizer which allows them to access iron in the soil to keep their leaves green.
Perennials, fruit trees and many flowering shrubs without dark green leaves, viburnum, for example, prefer less acidic fertilizer and lilacs thrive on the ashes from your fireplace to turn the acidic Maine soil more alkaline. Boxwood also benefits from ashes and non-acidic fertilizer. Don’t forget to fertilize your trusted old Mugo pines and Cedar (Arborvitae). They may be getting on in years but still need to be fed.
Time also to divide perennials growing too large and perhaps dying at the center – Dicentra (bleeding heart) comes to mind, as does Kirengeshoma, a beautiful Japanese perennial with maple tree shaped leaves and delicate yellow bell shaped flowers that bloom in the Fall. Time also to pot up all those ground covers – creeping jenny, sweet woodruff, ajuga – that you promised to your neighbor or for the local plant sale. If you want to transplant anything or create divisions that will multiply, irises for example, now is the time, until about mid-June, before it gets too warm and dry.
Finally, two weeks later than usual, time to plant seeds that love cool weather such as sweet peas, sugar snap peas, kale, carrots, lettuce, parsnip, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach and swiss chard. If it keeps raining as it has almost non-stop for the past few weeks you need only till the soil, add a two inch layer of manure or compost, high nitrogen fertilizer and weed periodically. If the weather turns dryer, make sure to keep germinating seeds moist and pray for sun!
Disclaimer: While I am a professional landscape designer, I still have a lot to learn as a gardener and welcome any comments, criticism or corrections on the blogs I post. We all, like our gardens, are a work in progress.
~ Julie Wang
Landscape Designer and former owner, Blue Poppy Garden