Shake off your problems!
With everyone spending more time at home with this coronavirus pandemic, I am getting a lot of questions about gardening - both ornamental and edible. Thankfully, gardening has been deemed a safe activity and "landscape services are services that are life-sustaining and must continue during any emergency declaration or quarantine scenario." That means that I can continue to operate my business and help all of you. All my design and maintenance work is outdoors and, although with social distancing I can come inside, I am able to do design reviews remotely over the computer! Many people that I talk to are planning to plant some edibles for the first time or more edibles than in the past to supplement their food supplies. I was even thinking, "Should I get a couple of  chickens?..." (My township allows 2 chickens per property.) I must admit, I have been considering that for a few years. Next month I will be sharing one of my favorite stories about chickens with all of you.


Like all of you, I can't wait until things get back to "normal". I believe this pandemic will have lasting effects for all of us. I hope that the information in this newsletter is helpful to you, but please contact me if you need additional help with your edible plants or your "I need to get outside" landscape plants. Shake off your problems, stay safe, and be well!

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Shake off Your Problems
Author Unknown
 
A man's favorite donkey falls into a deep precipice; He can't pull it out no matter how hard he tries; He therefore decides to bury it alive.
 
Soil is poured onto the donkey from above. The donkey feels the load, shakes it off, and steps on it; More soil is poured. It shakes it off and steps up; The more the load was poured, the higher it rose; By noon, the donkey was grazing in green pastures.
 
After much shaking off (of problems) And stepping up (learning from them), One will graze in GREEN PASTURES.

 

April In Your Garden 
 
Edibles: Fruits
 
ALL WEEKS
-Gradually remove mulch from strawberries as the weather begins to warm.
 
WEEK 1
Fruits: Mulch all bramble fruits for weed control.
Fruits: Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.
Place cloches over a few strawberry plants to encourage early fruiting. It also prevents rain damaging the fruits.
 
WEEKS 1 & 2                       
-Aphids begin to hatch on fruit trees as the buds begin to open.
 
WEEK 2                                             
-Mulch all bramble fruits for weed control.
-Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.
 
WEEK 3                                             
- Plant bare-root or potted fruit trees as soon as the soil can be worked.
- Remove tree wraps from fruit trees now.
- Prune plums and greengages as soon as their sap starts to rise. If pruned in winter, when dormant, there is a risk of diseases entering cuts.
- Protect bees and other pollinating insects. Do not spray insecticides on fruit trees that are blooming.
 
WEEKS 3 & 4
-Wooden clothespins make useful spreaders for training young fruits limbs. Place pins between the trunk and branch to force limbs outward at a 60 degree angle from the trunk.
- A white interior latex paint may be brushed on the trunks of newly planted fruit trees to prevent sunburn. This will gradually weather off in time.
- Stink bugs and tarnished plant bugs become active on peaches.
- Leaf rollers are active on apple trees. Control as needed.
 
WEEK 4                                             
 
Edibles: Vegetables
 
ALL WEEKS                                    
- Plan vegetable gardens so that similar types of plants are not grown in the same place every year. Rotate crops: first potatoes then root crops (carrots, turnips and parsnips); the following year brassicas (cabbages and Brussels sprouts); and, lastly, legumes (peas and beans). Rotating crops help to prevent the buildup of pest and diseases, as well as keeping the soil in good condition.
- Any root crops such as horseradish, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, or carrots still in the ground from last year should be harvested before new green top growth appears.
- Cultivate weeds and remove the old, dead stalks of last year's growth from the asparagus bed before the new spears emerge.
- Vegetables: Fertilize the garden as the soil is being prepared for planting. Unless directed otherwise by a soil test, 1 to 2 pounds of 12-12-12 or an equivalent fertilizer per 100 square feet is usually sufficient.
 
WEEK 1
-Sow carrots thinly in drills 1/2 - 3/4 inch deep and 9 inches apart.
-Sow early peas, 4 inches apart in drills 2 inches deep.
-Plant them 2 feet apart in rows 2 feet apart. Ensure the soil is well firmed around their roots.
 
WEEKS 1 & 2                       
-Vegetables: Plant beets, carrots, parsley and parsnip seeds outdoors.
-Vegetables: Set out broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower transplants into the garden.
 
WEEK 2                                             
- In mild areas, plant early potatoes, 6 inches deep and 12 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. In cold areas, delay planting for three or four weeks.
-Plant onion sets 4-6 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart. The necks of the sets must be just above the soil's surface.
- Prick out celery seedlings sown earlier in the year in a greenhouse. Space them 2 inches apart. Leave the seed box in gentle warmth in a greenhouse for a week, then place in a frame, slowly hardening off the plants.
 
WEEK 3 - 4                                       
- Start cucumber, cantaloupe, summer squash, and watermelon seeds indoors in peat pots. They don't like their roots disturbed so peat pots are better than transplanting from other pots.
- Finish sowing seeds of all cool-season vegetables not yet planted.
- Plastic films can be used to preheat the soil where warm season vegetables are to be grown.
 
WEEK 4                                             
- Sow seeds of cabbages for harvesting during summer and fall. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in drills 6 inches apart in a seedbed. The young plants are later planted in a vegetable garden.
- Sow parsley seed in pots, then place in 50-59 ˚F.
- Thin out crowded seedlings from early plantings of cool season crops such as beets, carrots, lettuce, onions and radish.
- Sow seeds of luffa and hard-shell gourds indoors in peat pots. Soak seeds overnight before planting.
- Make succession sowings of cool-season crops.
- Handpick and destroy asparagus beetles.
- Keep your hoe sharp! Don't allow weeds to get an early start in your garden.
- Try an early sowing of warm-season crops such as green beans, summer squash, sweet corn, New Zealand spinach and cucumbers.
 
Lawns
 
ALL WEEKS                                    
- Start mowing cool season grasses at recommended heights.
-Mow lawns low to remove old growth before new growth begins.
 
WEEK 1                                             
-Brush and scatter worm casts. If left and trodden on they create muddy patches and kill grass seedlings.
 
WEEKS 1-2
-Apply broadleaf herbicides now for control of cool-season perennial and annual weeds. These must not be applied to areas that will be seeded soon.
-Thin spots and bare patches in the lawn can be over-seeded now.
- Apply crabgrass preventers before April 15. Do not apply to areas that will be seeded.
 
WEEK 2                                             
Use a lawn roller to level turf slightly lifted by frost to level large mounds. Remember that rolling consolidates soil and restricts aeration.
 
WEEK 4                                             
- Soil preparation for seed sowing can be completed now. Rake the surface level and add a general fertilizer, mixing it into the top 1 inch.
- Top dress low spots and finish over-seeding thin or bare patches.
- Aerate turf if thatch is heavy or if soil is compacted.
 
Miscellaneous
 
ALL WEEKS                                    
- Don't throw away kitchen waste, lawn-clippings and other soft material from plants. Place it on a compost heap, where it will decompose and later be either dug into the soil or used to form a 2-3 inches thick mulch around plants. This conserves moisture in the soil and prevents the growth of weeds and provides plant foods.
- Recycle broken wire hangers. Bend them to form a framework that can be covered with polythene bags. They are ideal for covering early plants, protecting them from frost and cold winds.
 
WEEK 1                                             
-Greenhouses: Pot up cyclamen seedlings. The corms must be at compost level - if excessively deep they will not develop properly, but if too high they become dry and hard.
-Greenhouses: Plant common gloxinia (Sinningia) tubers, setting them slightly apart and packing moist peat around them. Water and place them in gentle warmth. When shoots appear, pot them into small pots.
 
WEEK 2         
-The white flowers of native serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) and wild plum (Prunus americana) are showy in wooded areas.
-Watch for the fuzzy blooms of the pussy willow (Salix sp.).
-Greenhouse: Prick out young seedlings before they become congested. Hold each seedling by one of its leaves, not its stem. And do not allow their roots to become dry.
-Flowers grown as half-hardy annuals to sow this month in gentle warmth in a greenhouse: Bedding Begonias, Flowering Tobacco, Mexican Fire Bush, Snapdragon, Slipper Flower, Spider flower, Verbena, Zinnia.
-Hardy annuals to sow outdoors this month, where they are to flower: Annual Chrysanthemum, California Poppy, Clarkia (elegans/pulchella), Convolvulus, Cornflower, Larkspur, Love-lies-Bleeding, Oriental Woodruff, Pot Marigold, Summer Adonis, Swan River Daisy, Viper's Bugloss, Winter Cape-marigold.
 
WEEK 3                                             
- Mount a rain gauge on a post near the garden to keep track of precipitation so you can tell when to water. Most gardens need about 1 inch of rain per week between April and September.
 
WEEKS 3 & 4
- Termites begin swarming. Termites can be distinguished from ants by their thick waists and straight antennae. Ants have slender waists and elbowed antennae.
- Mole young are born in chambers deep underground.
- Honeybees are swarming. Notify a local beekeeper to find a new home for these beneficial insects.
 
EXTRA                                  
-When sowing large seeds with hard coats, such as sweet peas, either nick the seed's coat with a sharp knife or scrape with a nail-file. This allows the seed readily to absorb moisture, an essential stage in germination.
                                               
 
Ornamentals
 
Old lawn chair re-purposed as peony support.
ALL WEEKS
- Place Peony rings in place now. Stakes any plants that you know will require staking now, when the plants are small.
-Summer and fall blooming perennials should be divided in spring.
- Study your landscape for gaps that could be nicely filled with bulbs. Mark these spots carefully and make a note to order bulbs next August.
- Enjoy, but do not disturb the many wildflowers blooming in woodlands throughout Pennsylvania.
- When buying bedding plants, choose compact, bushy plants that have not begun to flower.
-Trees, shrubs and perennials may be planted as soon as they become available at local nurseries.
-To control iris borer, clean up and destroy the old foliage before new growth begins.
-Fertilize bulbs with a "bulb booster" formulation broadcast over the planting beds. Hose off any granules that stick to the foliage.
-Dormant mail order plants should be unwrapped immediately. Keep the roots from drying out, store in a cool protected spot, and plant as soon as conditions allow.
-Loosen winter mulches from perennials cautiously. Re-cover plants at night if frost returns. Clean up beds by removing all weeds and dead foliage at this time.
-Loosen winter mulches from perennials cautiously. Re-cover plants at night if frost returns. Clean up beds by removing all weeds and dead foliage at this time.
 
 
WEEK 1-2
-Summer and fall blooming perennials should be divided in spring.
-Ornamental grasses should be cut to the ground just as the new growth begins.
-Spring bedding plants, such as pansies and toadflax (Linaria sp.), may be planted outdoors now.
-Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-10 to perennial beds when new growth appears.
-Apply sulfur to the soils around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies and dogwoods. Use a granular formulation at the rate of 1/2 pound per 100 square feet.
-Apply sulfur to pH sensitive Hydrangea macrophylla plants to turn flowers blue. For pink flowers, apply lime.
 
WEEK 2                                             
-Remove dead flower heads from bulbs that have flowered. If left, they produce seeds at the expense of bulb development.
-Gradually start to pull back mulch from rose bushes.
-Plant bare-rooted rose bushes. Unpack the plants and stand them in water. Trim off damaged roots and cut back long shoots to outward-pointing buds. Position them in the ground so that the old soil-mark on the stem is fractionally below the surface. This allows for soil settlement. Firm soil around the roots.
-Prune hybrid tea (large-flowered roses) and floribunda (cluster-flowered roses) n ow.
 
WEEK 3                                             
 
- Hardy annuals to sow outdoors, where they are to flower: Annual Chrysanthemum, Baby Blue Eyes, Baby's Breath, California Poppy, Herb Tree-mallow, and Oriental Woodruff.
- Groundcovers can be mowed to remove winter burn and tidy plants up. Raise mowers to their highest settings. Fertilize and water to encourage rapid regrowth.
- Shrubs and trees best planted or transplanted in spring, rather than fall, include butterfly bush, dogwood, rose of Sharon, black gum (Nyssa), vitex, red bud, magnolia, tulip poplar, birch, ginkgo, hawthorn and most oaks.
- Winter mulches should be removed from roses. Complete pruning promptly. Remove only dead wood from climbers at this time. Cultivate lightly, working in some compost or other organic matter.
 
WEEKS 3 & 4
- Examine shrubs for winter injury. Prune all dead and weakened wood.
- When crabapples are in bloom, hardy annuals may be transplanted outdoor s.
- Fertilize established roses once new growth is 2 inches long. Use a balanced formulation. Begin spraying to control black spot disease.
 
WEEK 4                                             
- Look for flowering dogwoods in bloom.
- Hardy annuals to sow outdoors, where they are to flower: Clarkia, Flanders Field Poppy, Flower-of-an-Hour, Godetia, Annual Larkspur, and Love-in-a-Mist.
- Break off rims from peat pots when transplanting seedlings, otherwise they can act as a wick to draw moisture away from the roots.
- Transplant Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) after bloom, but before the foliage disappears.
- Prune winter-flowering shrubs now, and spring-flowering types as soon as their flowers fade.
- Evergreen and deciduous hedges may be sheared. Prune the top narrower than the base so sunlight will reach the lower limbs.
- Oaks and hickories bloom.
- Easter lilies past blooming can be planted outdoors. Set the bulbs 2 to 3 inches deeper than they grew in the pot. Mulch well if frost occurs.
- Apply controls for holly leaf miner when the new leaves are just beginning to grow.
- Balloon flower (Platycodon), hardy hibiscus, gasplant (Dictamnus albus) and some lilies are slow starters in the spring garden. Cultivate carefully to avoid injury to these tardy growers.
 
Houseplants
 
ALL WEEKS                                    
-Two handsome houseplants that provide fragrant blossoms indoors this month are the Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira). Both thrive in average home conditions and are easy plants to grow.
As day lengths increase, plants begin new growth. Repot rootbound plants, moving them to containers 2 inches larger in diameter than their current pot. Check for insect activity and apply controls as needed. Leggy plants may be pruned now.
 
EXTRA                                              
-When buying houseplants, avoid those with roots coming out of drainage holes in their pots. Also, do not buy house plants with pots covered with moss or algae, flowers fully open, or stems bare of leaves. Additionally, discard large plants in small pots or small plants in large pots.
-Consider using a moisture meter to help determine the water needed for houseplants.
-Re-pot all plants that fill their pots with roots.
-If you haven't done so, you can begin fertilizing your houseplants again since they are beginning to actively grow.
 
Pests and Problems
 
-Now is a good time to go out and look for Spotted Lanternfly egg masses. When you find them, scrape/smash them to help keep as many as possible from hatching.
-Frost is still possible this month. Do not uncover plants or plant tender plants too early. Little can be done to protect large trees and shrubs but you may be able to give some protection to small plants closer to the ground. Winter burn on broadleaf evergreen may also be noticeable at this time of year.
-Carpenter bees may be seen buzzing around decks and other wooden structures. Although males appear aggressive when defending their territory they can not sting. Females do not defend their nests but can sting if handled.
-Apply crabgrass preventer by mid-April or by the time forsythia is blooming. If you decide to use a weed and feed product, do not use a fertilizer high in ni trogen.
-Scout for and remove tent caterpillar webs. Treat now to help control lacebugs if they were a problem on azaleas or other plants last year.
-Observe indoor seedlings closely for signs of damping off. Treat if necessary.
-Harden-off seedlings before planting in open ground to reduce or prevent transplant shock.
-Don't plant tomatoes or other warm-season annuals such as petunias and vinca until the weather warms, usually in mid-to late May.
-Fluctuations in temperature can result in damage to flower buds of plants such as hydrangeas and magnolias.
-Remove mulch from roses in mid-April to limit damage from stem canker diseases.
-Do not prune boxwood until all chance of a hard frost is past, usually in late April. In late April or early May, inspect for and treat boxwood leafminers as new leaves emerge."
-In late April or early May, inspect for and treat holly leafminers as new leaves emerge.
-Collect and dispose of cedar-apple and cedar-hawthorn galls on junipers before the orange spore-producing structures emerge from the galls.
-Scout for and control common spring insect pests such as aphids, spruce mites, and pine sawflies.
-Weed whips can be deadly to plants, especially small trees when they girdle them by killing the bark at the base of the tree. Keep weed whips away from the base of trees and other plants.
-Resist the temptation to prune fruit trees including ornamental pears and oak trees now as they may be more subject to disease and insect damage at this time.
-Cool-season grasses are best fertilized in fall. If you do apply fertilizer in spring, make sure it is low in nitrogen. Nitrogen applied in spring encourages excess growth, which is more susceptible to disease. Hold off until May to fertilize zoysia or other warm-season grasses.
-Be on the look out for sycamore anthracnose.
-Be on the lookout for asparagus beetles.
-Do not harvest and eat rhubarb that has been damaged by a late frost.


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