2006-04-27 / News

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

It's that time of year again when the garden rush is starting.

This year spring seems to have come early by a couple of weeks.

There have been a few cool mornings over the last week, but for most of the time, the overnight temperatures have remained just above freezing.

However, don't go planting everything out just yet. We can still get a hard frost that will kill plants. Plants that require warmer temperatures have no need to be rushed into the ground anyway. The soil temperature is still in the upper 40s and plants like tomatoes will not set fruit buds until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees.

By the way, I recently tried out a new organic weed and grass killer. It's called Perfectly Natural, and appears to be made of clove oil, vinegar, and other ingredients. I sprayed it on several plants and saw the leaves wilt in about an hour under warm sunshine.

If you have kids this might be a good weed killer to use instead of a more toxic one. I don't know how effective it is on woodier plants, but it sure seemed to kill dandelions and burdock.

In the vegetable garden

You can set out peas and potatoes if you wish. They both will be buried in the ground where they are protected from a last frost. Cover and protect strawberries as they come alive again so that birds won't ruin the fruit. Check over the asparagus patch for the first shoots of that vegetable and check the mulch on the garlic.

Hopefully, your garlic overwintered and can be fed with a liquid manure fertilizer to get it going fast. Other than that, there isn't a lot you can do other than digging your garden beds over to bury winter rye. You might want to make sure that greenhouse windows, cloches, and coldframe windows are clean.

Soft fruits

Spread a layer of compost around your soft fruit plants. This will help to give black, white, and

red currants a boost, and get your raspberries going fast. Try to keep the area around the bushes clear of other plants so that plenty of sunlight can get to them. This will help to increase your yield later in the summer.

Fruit trees

You still have time to spray dormant oil before flowers develop on apple trees, but you'll have to be quick. As soon as the petals have dropped on plum trees, spray them with a fungicide to control rot and disease on the fruit. Mulch around fruit trees out to the drip line. You can also hammer in spike fertilizers around each tree to help boost your fruit yields.

Flower gardens

By now lots of perennials are showing signs of growth, so look over your garden beds and check where you might have to add

annuals or fill in with perennials for next season. Give your bulbs a little all-purpose fertilizer to help them generate enough food for good flowers next season. This is especially important for daffodils and tulips. Also, don't cut or break daffodil leaves for at least six weeks after flowering. This gives the bulb time to store lots of energy for next year's flowers.

Indoor plants

Make sure your indoor plants are fertilized to get them going this spring. Clean the leaves to maximize photosynthesis and help make the plant look good.

When you put the plants outdoors in late May, knock them out of their pots and check for root growth. If the plant is pot bound, tease the roots apart and plant it in a larger pot.

Above all, have fun!

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