The Island Garden
time for a garden cleanup and a chance to put down a lot of mulch. With daffodils in bloom, the gardening season has officially begun and there's a ton of things to do. First, a general cleanup of your property will get it ready for spring and summer.
Lawns need a good raking over to get dead leaves and grass thatch off. By cleaning off last year's dead thatch, your lawn will grow better this year. If you haven't done it already, it's time to fertilize and aerate the lawn. When fertilizing, set your spreader to half the value given by the fertilizer manufacturer and work both north and south and east and west. If you don't, you may miss a strip, and when the lawn greens up, everyone will know what you missed. By working crossways, any missed patches are tiny squares unless you really mess up. If you have a set of shoes with long spikes, you can aerate the lawn by wearing them when you walk behind the fertilizer spreader, otherwise you are going to have to make a bunch of holes in the lawn, then spread some sand around to help promote good drainage. If you have moss in your lawn, either dig it up or spray it with a moss killer.
The vegetable garden
If you used a green manure crop such as winter rye or rapeseed last winter, it's time to dig the crop in. As it rots, it will provide a nitrogen boost for your new seedlings. I like to hand dig the raised beds so that I can be sure that the green manure crop is fully turned in. I rototilled one year and had so much winter rye go to seed that I could have made my own bread.
If you haven't done it yet, make a plan of where your crops will go. Try to put plants that fix nitrogen, such as beans and peas, in beds that grew heavy feeders like cabbage and broccoli last year. Don't put tomatoes in beds that grew tomatoes or potatoes last year. They are of the same family and can get the same diseases. You might also plant herbs alongside complementary plants to enhance the is great help when figuring out where to put the nine million plants that you just started in your basement.
Indoor and greenhouse plants
Your indoor and greenhouse plants have long awakened from a period of dormancy, and should be fertilized, weakly at first, but as summer growth starts, bring the fertilizer dosage up. You might also take your indoor plants outside on a warm day and wash their leaves. I know, I know, your house doesn't have dust, but dust does collect on plant leaves and interferes with their ability to synthesize sunlight. A good washing can be beneficial in many ways, just wet and wipe the leaves and don't use soap.
In the greenhouse, things are popping. I have so many plants in the greenhouse that a walk through is an invitation to disaster, so now I spray from the doorway in the hope that I hit everything.
With overwintered bulbs in bloom, it's time to look at your flower beds. As I mentioned last week, mark the locations of your daffodils so that you can split large clumps when the leaves die back in about six to eight weeks. You should also be starting to mulch flower beds to prevent weeds from taking over. I just got 10 yards of mulch from Hopedale Trucking and have been spreading it as hard as I can go. Call 294-4035, and ask for Dave Rugieri. He's in North Kingstown and delivers to Jamestown. He has several types of mulch and will explain what they are.
You should have started your annual flowers by now for planting in about a month. If your flowers are 2 to 3 inches high, you should repot them to keep them growing fast. I find that starting the flowers indoors and hardening them off properly by moving them into a cold frame gives me flowers a few weeks before they would come if they were directly seeded into the ground.
Fruit trees and fruiting shrubs
If you haven't sprayed your fruit trees with dormant oil, you have a week or so to do it. Quite soon, flower buds will populate fruit trees, and you won't be able to spray without killing a lot of beneficial insects. So do it now. Make sure the mulch around your fruit trees is raked back from the tree trunk and that a band of Tanglefoot has been painted around the trunk about 1 foot off the ground. This will stop ants from taking aphids up to the leaf tips to feed.
Soft fruit bushes should be side dressed with compost to help them set more fruit this year. If you don't have compost, use a slow-acting fertilizer. It's not as good, but it'll do in a pinch.