Early Spring: What to do in the Garden

Written by Greg Draiss, Wappinger Garden Center Manager

Warm weather will be here soon! In fact, if the weather warms up too fast, it can make tender plant growth susceptible to a quick night frost. Tiny seedlings growing on our windowsills are not the only things subjected to fast changes in the weather. Many Hudson Valley apple crops have been ruined by normal freezes following abnormal warm spells.

Below are some tips to prepare your gardens for the eventual spring warm-up:

  • Divide perennials and herbs. If you are lucky enough to have your hosta and day lilies raising their heads above ground, now is a great time to thin them out and start new clumps. Simply dig up a section of the clump using a spade shovel and move the clumps to the new location. (Do not use round point shovels. Spade shovels give a sharp, full cut, whereas round point shovels cut off young feeder roots and make rounded cuts.) After moving the clumps to their new location, feed with a slow-release fertilizer of your liking.
  • Plant cool weather crops. Peas, greens and radishes can all go in the ground in early spring. Potatoes can also be planted if your mud content is low.
  • Stop crabgrass. Forsythia is in bloom and that means it is time to apply crabgrass preventer. Corn gluten as a weed preventer is not recommended when the soil is still wet. Corn gluten works best when the weather is dry because it acts as a desiccant, drawing moisture out of plants to kill them. During wet weather corn gluten is a natural slow-release nitrogen that feeds everything, including weeds. Think twice before using this so called miracle weed preventer.
  • Acclimate your plants. Put your plants outside on days above 50 degrees. This includes houseplants as well as seedlings. The fresh air rejuvenates almost any plant that has been hibernating indoors for the last six months. Seedlings need to be outdoors to get used to the environment they will spend the next six months in. It will make plants healthier in the long run. The effort is worth it!
  • Other preparations. Rake up debris in the garden area and remove leaves from the lawn areas. Black plastic placed over garden beds really helps to warm the soil. Just remember to remove it when the hot weather moves in. Be on the watch for ticks, which become more active this time of year.
  • Don’t forget the birds. Migrating birds have returned and it’s nesting season. Keep feeders full at least until the weather warms significantly and the supply of insects becomes more plentiful.
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