So much for the old wives’ tale that “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” This year it came in like a lion, with snow and bitter cold, and left with yet another snowstorm.
For all the cold and snow this winter has brought us, the one thing I know for sure is the intense April sunlight is causing the biology in your garden to explode. Let’s look at some of the activities gardeners can do now.
Clean your beds
Now’s the time to cut back dead flower carcasses and ornamental grasses and dispose of them in the compost pile. Many perennial flowers have broken dormancy and are beginning to grow. Removing the old plant material exposes this new growth to the April sun, warming the soil and speeding growth. It’s refreshing for gardeners to see life start anew, especially after this winter.
Get a handle on weeds
This moisture, coupled with the April sun, is causing an explosion of weed seeds to germinate. Nothing is more fitting for a gardener to do but to use the all-natural, inexpensive Christmas method of weed control: Hoe, Hoe, Hoe! By simply scraping the soil surface of these young weeds, you will effectively kill them. For more aggressive perennial weeds, man-made herbicides are usually the way to go. There are so many herbicide choices out there – some bad, some good. I’d have you contact your local garden center or your county weed and pest office for advice on selecting the right herbicide for the job.
Plant your cool season veggies now
Vegetables like spinach, snow peas, beets, leaf lettuce, onions and garlic love these cool, wet days of early spring. Get them in the ground now and you’ll be harvesting most of them by the end of May.
Research replacement trees and shrubs
Let’s face it: Winter Storm Atlas caused massive damage to central and eastern Wyoming’s urban forests last October. Many trees have been cut down and many more will need to be replaced. So what to plant next? This is where you need to decide what you want the tree or shrub to do. Is it for shade? Spring or autumn color? Screen out a pesky neighbor? Reduce the wind? Fruit production? Answer these questions and then seek out the advice of local experts. Some good places to start your research is with your local garden center, arborist or Wyoming State Forestry office. There is no reason you can’t plant trees and shrubs now, so long as they are at the same stage of development as your trees and shrubs in your landscape. In other words, don’t purchase and plant fully leafed out trees and shrubs this time of year.
Add organic matter to your garden soil
Aged cow manure, peat moss, last fall’s tree leaves and used coffee grounds all work as a soil amendment to enhance the microbiology in your soil. Organic matter also helps with soil drainage. In sandy soils organic matter tends to hold onto its moisture for longer periods than unamended sandy soil. Conversely, organic matter in clay soils tends to allow for better drainage, loosening the clay.