JUNE TIPS 2015
The English Lady Manure Tea and The English Lady Seaweed Tea are available for purchase. These organic elixirs come in one gallon containers and create sixteen gallons of nutrient rich plant food. It is more powerful than fertilizers and completely non-toxic to the environment.
The fullness of bloom came late this year, with cool weather and rain. What we need now for the next four months is sun for the garden to flourish whether for flora, foliage or our vegetable gardens. The heady fragrance of dwarf lilacs, the wild roses just beginning to open and my lush peonies in the field on the west side of the farmhouse are beginning to waft their fragrance through the open windows. I cannot remember witnessing such abundant growth; I know it’s a result of snow cover and manure that I have added three times each season. May was an extremely dry month but hopefully with the rain of the first few days of June and the composted manure working with the millions of soil animals to build soil structure is producing the nutrients for the plants.
However, I know that heat and humidity is on the horizon and between the high temperatures and drying winds, the soil will dry quickly and the plants can shrivel and burn. An excellent counter measure to this situation is a good layer of the composted manure. The manure not only builds structure with its bacteria working with the millions of soil microorganisms to make nutrients for the roots of the plants. Added bonuses to composted manure is helping the soil to retain moisture and retarding weeds. Grow the soil and it will grow the plants.
Weeds are our nemesis but there is an excellent weed retardant that you can purchase from the garden center. This product is an organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent so that when you clear a patch of weeds; sprinkle the product on the soil to keep weeds away for a few weeks. Try to remove the weeds by hand; if you use an implement, the tool will break up the weeds, scattering hungry pieces that result in even more weeds.
If you are still seeding or reseeding lawns do not use the Bradfield corn gluten weed pre-emergent, as it will prevent the seeds from germinating.
For many years, in our nursery in England my family and I in my own garden prefer to use composted manure as mulch, as unlike other mulches, manure will not crust or cap, so that water and air can penetrate to the roots of the plants where it is needed. I suggest you use composted manure as mulch on the vegetable garden and brown fine bark mulch in all other areas. The combination of composted manure and the mulch go towards producing the carbon compound or humus in the soil.
Did you know and you would not know by looking but there are more soil organisms living in a handful of organic soil than the total number of all the people on this earth. Mind blowing and we need to save the soil. Where? In our own organic garden. I say this as precious soils around the world are being depleted of carbon, decimated by selfish misguided practices in industrial agriculture and poisonous chemicals.
Scientists are telling us that this steady carbon depletion will inevitably lead to ecological collapse within two decades. Deprived of carbon and critical soil microbes, soils become sterile, devoid of a healthy life sustaining microbial ecosystem.
We cannot ignore carbon’s importance. In your own garden you need to sequester carbon, support life, feed the pollinators and manage water. All life on earth is carbon-based and the millions of soil microbes or organisms need carbon to flourish. Carbon will be taken from the atmosphere and put into your organic soil where over time the decomposed manure breaks down to the smallest particles and made available to plants. When all this good stuff is used up the remaining material is Humus – the soil’s favorite food – Humus.
Humus, consisting of mainly carbon compounds is extremely stable and can remain in the soil for hundreds even thousands of years. You just need to make sure it remains so by adding the composted manure and the brown fine bark mulch each season to continue to build the humus.
Scientists tell us that carbon only binds in a healthy organic soil and of course that means you must discard all poisons herbicides and pesticides. You know I have been and will continue to broadcast this fact – so that our soils, our plants, animals, ground water and our own lives and all living entities can be saved.
Through my window I can see hundreds of buds and already some blooms on the peonies as well as armies of ants. It is fascinating to witness the symbiotic partnership between ants and peonies. A question I am often asked is “Maureen, should I worry about ants on my peonies?” The answer is “ a lot of ants on the peonies just demonstrates that you have healthy plants with big buds producing a lot of nectar which attract the ants”. When you see ants “let them live”; more often than not their presence indicates that you have aphids present and the ants feed off aphids.
Peonies like Hydrangeas need plenty of water for good bloom. In early spring I give a light application of composted manure to both Hydrangeas and Peonies. Do not plant or transplant peonies until September and when you do plant or transplant, make sure that the pink eyes on the roots of the plant are only just covered with soil – just enough so they are secure and do not topple over. After the first hard frost in November cut the Peony stalks to about six inches from the ground.
On the subject of Hydrangeas, Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require an adequate amount of water especially during hot and dry weather. An application of composted manure and a small amount of peat to encourage the deep blue color on the blue variety of hydrangeas is beneficial. Make sure they have plenty of space to grow as they get very large and do not like to be transplanted – the space between will ensure good ventilation to prevent powdery mildew.
Last year due to the wet, cold and long spring we were not blessed with enough strong warm sun and therefore the bloom on the Hydrangeas was poor. Hopefully we will have a long spell of sunny weather interspersed with rain and good bloom. By applying a few inches of manure will prove to be a tonic and push them to bloom more readily.
A useful creature in the war on insects is the lowly toad. In my garden I have a toad house, which I placed in a shady, quiet spot. There is no reason to buy commercial toad houses. Unearth an old clay pot in the garage or shed, that is cracked, making sure that the crack is about 4 inches wide for the doorway to this ‘toad house’ so that the toad can enter. Also put a small saucer as a floor under the pot with some rocks, and keep the rocks damp, then your friendly bad bug eater will set up residence and eat about two hundred bad bugs each week. .
Did you know that garlic is the anti-biotic of the garden I just love garlic to use in my recipes and it is an important anti-fungal element to protect your plants I suggest you plant plenty of it next fall if you do not already have some in the garden?
Plant garlic with strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries to avoid fungal diseases.
Plant garlic with mildew-prone plants such as summer phlox and bee balm.
Plant garlic under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease.
Plant garlic next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae, or pour garlic water into the water to keep away adult mosquitoes.
Where you notice marauders that either insects or animals have been munching make a garlic spray to apply on the plants:
Garlic spray recipe
4 large crushed garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 squirt of mild dish detergent
Put all ingredients in 2 cups of hot water in the blender and blend then leave overnight
Then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray in the early morning or in the evening when it is cooler and there is no wind.
To deter squirrels and chipmunks try a hot pepper spray using either 4 hot chilies or one cup of cayenne pepper in 2 cups of hot water, leave overnight then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray the problem areas in the early morning or evening. This pepper spray works well on squirrels, chipmunks, deer as well as dogs and cats that may be leaving their deposits in the garden.
MULCH: mulch your gardens with a brown fine bark mulch, not the red dyed stuff and certainly not the cocoa mulch which has been found to be POISONOUS AND HAS CAUSED DEATH IN A NUMBER OF DOGS AND CATS WHICH ARE ATTRACTED TO THE CHOCOLATE SMELL, THE SYMPTOMS ARE SEIZURES AND DEATH WITHIN HOURS.
When you mulch, do not put the mulch any closer than four inches from the trunks of trees and shrubs, any closer encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the wood. The garden can be mulched to a depth of three inches.
June is the month for Roses and personally I find that David Austin roses are the most trouble free, these repeat bloomers, have beautiful colors and wonderful fragrances.
I know I gave you some of my favorite D.A roses in my May show but here are a few more:
A Shropshire Lad, (Shropshire is my home county in England), this rose is a soft peachy pink with a fruity fragrance.
Abraham Darby with blooms in apricot to yellow, coupled with a rich fruity fragrance and spice.
Fair Bianca, a pure white, with a strong scent that is overlaid with an unusual heliotrope note.
A side note as to what is heliotrope and what is the fragrance –
Heliotrope is a lovely small bushy flower – usually pale lilac in color and can only be grown south of here – the fragrance is almost identical to that of the butterfly bush.
Quite often the heliotrope plant can be purchased here and used as any annual in containers or hanging baskets. It can also be wintered over with some luck in a greenhouse.
In containers combined with red geraniums and trailing verbena offers a lovely display.
Plant in rich soil with composted manure in full sun, do not over water or leaves turn black
Heritage, a soft clear pink and my favorite with overtones of fruit, honey and carnation on a myrrh background.
Evelyn, which has giant apricot flowers in a saucer shape, the fragrance is a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.
Make sure you have additional composted manure in the planting hole and around the base of the roses and mulch about six inches away from the plant; this will keep the roots moist and cool. It is not necessary if you have composted manure around the roses to feed the roses with an organic rose food. However, if you feel you must, do so monthly until mid August, and then stop feeding so the roses can go into a slow dormancy.
Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses. I find the English Lady Manure tea sprayed on the foliage keeps away black spot, Japanese beetles and fungal diseases. If you used an organic grub control on the lawn in April – this product will kill the white Japanese beetle larvae and if not then you may do the following:
Pick up the Japanese beetles off your plants in the morning when they are dozy and drop them in soapy water. Or put a drop cloth under the plants and shake the plants so the beetles fall to into the drop cloth and you can tip them into a garbage bag and throw them away.
A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut the roses in the morning, just above a five-leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water. Inside the house cut the stems again under luke warm running water, forming a one and a half inch angular cut, and then place in a vase filled with luke warm water. Do not remove the thorns on cut roses, I have found that by removing the thorns reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.
If you plant mint; plant it only in containers, as mint too will spread throughout your borders.
Summer phlox is particularly afflicted by mildew. I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, white ones of the species; these are the most mildew resistant. Monarda, commonly known as Bee balm, is also affected by mildew. Be careful when introducing Monarda into the garden; this plant, like Purple Loosestrife and Evening Primrose are extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.
POWDERY MILDEW SPRAY – spray with our Manure tea or make a blend of the following inexpensive Baking Soda mixture:
1 tablespoon Baking soda
½ teaspoon liquid dish soap
1-tablespoon vegetable oil
In one gallon of water – in a sprayer
Water plants before spraying including foliage
Spray top and underside of foliage in early morning or late afternoon when there is no wind and obey this rule
Do not store unused mixture as it will intensify and can burn plants.
Wisteria: regular pruning through late spring and summer is the main factor to help this arrogant vine to flower. Prune the new growth every two weeks cutting into the plant at least nine inches on each stem. If the plant still does not bloom then in early spring using a sharp spade cut down into the roots – a root pruning will often shock many plants especially Wisteria into bloom. Also like all plants in the garden apply four inches of composted manure.
Clematis wilt: if you have this problem it will be noticeable early because the shoots wilt and die. Unfortunately this disease, which is soil born, is impossible to cure, therefore you cannot plant another clematis of that species in that area.
You can, plant the Viticella clematis selection, which are vigorous, free flowering blooms and are not susceptible to wilt. Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette, both are purple and Huldine, which is a white. Roses and Clematis make a great combination grown together as they enjoy the same growing environment of heads in the sun and feet in the shade with plenty of composted manure and mulch to keep the roots cool.
CONTAINER GARDENS: If you have room for one pot you have room for a number; placed close together in different shapes and sizes, creates your own miniature cottage garden. As well as regular pots, the most unexpected objects make really interesting containers.
Check in your basement, shed or barn, as I did, two years ago when I found an old wooden wheelbarrow, with a wheel missing, which I painted with eco-conscious paint in a periwinkle blue, a bit of whimsy, among four others.
Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic jar like the old two foot tall ceramic vinegar container, from my basement, replete with a hole where the vinegar tap was inserted, ideal for drainage, and which will look great on my painted periwinkle blue bench next to the red milk shed and barn. Periwinkle blue was my color for certain structures in the garden that year and I think this year the color will be lemon yellow.
Plant the containers with a variety of ornamental grasses, large leafed plants like Cannas and Elephant Ears and perennials; remove perennials when they have finished blooming, plant them in the garden and add some others from the garden. Tuck in some annuals as needed.
If you plant mint; plant it only in containers, as mint too will spread throughout your borders.
LAWN CARE: Keep an eye out for moles and if you see evidence put exlax down the holes. Exlax is made of Senna, an organic herb and the moles eat the exlax, get dehydrated and the rest is history.
When spraying with Manure tea or any other organic spray always observe the rule of “160” which means if the temperature is 80 degrees and the humidity is 80 then its too hot to spray, I find that early morning is the best time.
I know there is always much work to be accomplished in the garden but make time to sit and relax to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s so important to take the time to recharge and to have balance in your life and what better place to do this than in the garden. Keep your garden clean – a clean garden is a healthy garden. Enjoy being outdoors in June and I’ll see you next time in your garden.
MAY TIPS 2015
“The darling buds of May” is such an apt phrase for one of the most enchanting months and I can only hope that spring is finally here.
In your garden, you have probably by now removed most of the winter debris, pruned broken branches, re-edged borders and most important applied that spring layer of composted manure. Of course our nemesis, the weeds are appearing everywhere. I would suggest that as soon as you see them, pull them up by hand. As I say by hand, as uses a tool breaks up the weeds; the result being hundreds more weeds from the broken pieces. I suggest you follow on the weeding with the organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics.
Also it’s a good idea to put manure around your blooming daffodils so that the soil microbes below the surface can produce the nutrients to feed the bulbs for next year’s bloom. Apply composted manure on all maintained areas of the garden now, then again in July and when putting the garden to bed in October. Forsythia is in full bloom and if the bloom on your shrub is not as prolific as in previous years, after blooming, prune out the old sparse wood.
A favorite native tree the Serviceberry tree, its white panicle blooms like fairy dust. The bloom soon to be followed by bright green leaves and within weeks the red fruit, a great addition for the menu of our feathered friends. Gather some fruit if you can before the birds get to it and make it into a delicious jelly for your morning toast. Throughout my town, the Magnolias, Cherries and Eastern Redbud are tumbling over one another and already the Dogwoods are making an appearance. Following this cold wet spring many of these trees are blooming at the same time or within a few weeks of one another. Unfortunately their bloom will soon be over but we can look forward to rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel into June.
The Carlesii viburnum (also known as Korean Spice) is showing pink buds, the fragrant white flowers of this shrub are a lovely to inhale. Covering the barn wall and up to the barn roof is my climbing hydrangea – bright green leaves emerging with hundreds of buds indicating that this beautiful climber will be laden with blossoms in summer.
Tulips, creeping phlox, forget-me-nots, primroses and candytuft bring much needed color to borders and rock gardens.
Around your pruned roses pull back the old mulch and apply manure about six inches from the trunk of the plant. In another week reapply a layer of the brown natural mulch on top of the composted manure. The manure and mulch works together with the soil microbes to produce humus, which is the carbon component in the soil. These layers also keep the roots cool, keep weeds at bay and help retain moisture.
Do not mulch right up against the base of any plants as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the plants. Beware of fungi that look like weird mushrooms in your mulch; this is a sign of Artillery fungus and can adhere to the walls of your home and cause problems. If you notice this fungus, you will need to remove all the mulch and get it off your property.
Apply lime and manure around the lilacs, they like sweeter or alkaline soil, thus the lime. By this time you have already applied lime to the grass, which also enjoys sweeter soil and organic grub control to kill the Japanese beetle larvae and offer less food for moles.
If you are making an organic vegetable garden this year; a garden measuring 16 x 24 can feed a family of four for a year, but keep the size within your needs and capability. Don’t work the soil if it is too wet or too dry. Double digging is the best way to go; it takes time and effort but its well worth it – dig down about one foot and remove the top soil, put to one side, then dig down and loosen the next six inches of soil and add about three inches of composted manure then put back the top soil and add another three to four inches of manure. Do not rototill, as this will badly compromise the soil structure. The gently loosened, aerated fertile soil will give excellent yield of fruits and vegetables in the garden. I prefer 6 x 4ft beds rather than rows; beds produce a larger yield of crops. In addition beds make for ease of weeding and harvesting by having narrow compacted soil or grass paths (perhaps having removed lawn from the area) in-between the beds.
The vegetable garden should be situated on the south or southwest side of the property for maximum sun exposure. Make sure you remove as many weeds as possible, by hand before you even begin digging. You will need a water source close by as vegetables require lots of water, particularly the annual fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, which are hydroponics (mostly water). Rotate the crops which means do not plant the same vegetables in the same place as the previous year. By doing this break up the soil born disease cycle.
In the loosened soil, plant the vegetables plants so that they are touching, this method forms a natural canopy to shade out weeds and help retain moisture.
I prefer to mulch the vegetable garden with composted manure, the manure, as mulch, does not cap. Capping is when mulch forms a crust, which does not allow water or air to penetrate the soil.
Fence in the vegetable garden with a tall fence to keep animals out. At the base of the fence install eight inches of fine mesh chicken wire above ground and eight inches below ground to keep out the digging and burrowing animals.
For more information on vegetable gardens check the website www.theenglishlady.com and in the search box enter ‘vegetable gardens’; this will show three articles I wrote on vegetable gardening through the season.
Organic insect control – Insects do not like fragrance so plant fragrant plants like marigolds, nasturtium, lavender, nepeta and honeysuckle and roses to name a few.
Encourage lacewings, which feed on aphids by planting marigolds and sunflowers,
Attract ground beetles by laying a log or a rock on the earth, under which the beetles may hide. These important insects are nocturnal and eat slug and snail eggs, cabbage maggots, cutworms and even climb trees to feed on armyworms and tent caterpillars.
Foliar spray all the vegetables through the summer with our manure and seaweed tea – find out more about this 400 year old family on our website www.TheEnglishLady.com. The teas will be ready to purchase by the end of May – all information on how and where it will be available will be on the website.
Grass is now a vibrant shade of green. When mowing keep the blades of grass at about three inches; the taller blades attracts sunlight, to promote a healthier lawn. The taller blades also shade weeds and help retain moisture in the grass.
When mowing leave grass clippings on the lawn, the clippings are a natural source of nitrogen and if you have clover, that is an added benefit as clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil, additional nitrogen for plant growth.
After flowering is over, prune flowering shrubs by 25% – do this task immediately before new buds set for next year.
On a rainy day go shopping for any garden supplies you may need, so that when the weather is dry you can be outdoors doing what you love and not indoors shopping. Buy good hoses, cheap ones will bend and crack.
Peonies need plenty of water to produce flower buds. I have a thirty-foot long stand of Peonies in my field. The Peonies have been in the ground for over forty years and are a sight to behold when in bloom. I give them lots of loving care with a light dressing of aged manure, in April. In a few weeks I will pinch off the side buds while they are still small, leaving the terminal flower bud on each stalk, which will develop into a good-sized bloom.
Hydrangeas also require plenty of water during the season. Hydrangeas are a wetland plant. Also put plenty of manure and mulch around the base. If you need to prune a Hydrangea, which as become too large then prune it in June and no later. When a Hydrangea has been in the ground for 5years or more you can prune out 1/3rd of the old wood and the weakest of the young shoots immediately after flowering.
My maternal grandmother’s favorite bloom, the Lily of the Valley soon will bloom tucked under the boxwood hedge on the north east side of the farmhouse near the front door. I love the delicate white flowers and fresh unique fragrance. When the lilacs have finished blooming, remove the withered flower clusters, do the same on the mountain laurel in late June and rhododendrons to ensure good blossoms next year.
This month apply composted manure, a light application of peat and then mulch around the evergreens; rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas; these plants are shallow rooted and the mulch will keep the roots protected, warm and moist.
Some annual seeds that may be planted outside in mid May are:
Calendula, Coreopsis, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nicotiana and Zinnia.
If you purchase annuals, around Mother’s Day, put them in a sheltered spot on the south side of your home and plant them no earlier than Memorial weekend.
Tuberous-rooted begonias, caladiums, cannas and elephant ears can be moved from porch or cold frame to a part shade area as the weather becomes warmer.
If you staked trees, planted last year, cut the stakes off at ground level do not pull them out of the roots as you could damage the root system.
Aphid tip: squish a few in your hand; dead aphids release a chemical that causes other aphids to drop off the plants. Another ants and aphids tip – if you drink mint tea, any leftover sprinkle on the bugs, as they do not like the odor of mint. However, on the subject of mint, a word of caution – do not plant mint except in containers, as it is tremendously invasive and can take over your garden.
Watch out for a dry spell that often occurs in May, and make sure you water all newly planted deciduous trees, shrubs and evergreens.
Houseplants can be moved outdoors for their summer sojourn at the end of May. However, do not put your African violets outdoors but move them to a porch that is covered and shaded, or keep them indoors in a window that does not receive direct rays from the sun.
Wait until the soil warms up at the end of May to set out Dahlia tubers.
Roses are not the troublesome creatures you have been led to believe. I like David Austin roses; these shrub roses are repeat bloomers with lovely fragrances. Roses need at least four hours of sun per day, good air circulation, and excellent drainage. During their growing period from the beginning of June to mid August; they are heavy feeders (they like the same conditions as Clematis, which look great mixed with roses). Add manure and compost to the planting mix and mulch two feet away from the base of the plant in mid May. Before you top up the soil around the roses, add water and check if the soil drains, roses need good drainage. Deep watering is recommended at least once a week with our Manure tea, which is wonderful for foliar spraying on the roses during summer’s heat; this keeps the plant healthy and free from disease.
Plenty of stuff to keep you hopping folks and remember to keep your eye out for any pest trouble and when you spot it get on the ball immediately to avoid further problems. Throw away all herbicides and pesticides; these poisons have the same effect as second hand smoke. Come to one of my “Garden Earth” lectures; check the lecture schedule on this website to reconnect your hands, mind and heart to the loving nourishment of Mother Nature. In stressful times, the garden offers an anchor for peace and quiet enjoyment. Enjoy the warmth, the gentle breeze, the earth’s fragrance and bloom and I’ll see you next time in your garden.
April tips 2015
‘Those April showers that come our way
They bring the flowers that bloom in May
And when it’s raining, let’s not forget,
It isn’t raining rain at all, it’s raining violets’
~A popular ballad sang during World War II by Dame Vera Lynn in England.
To create and maintain a healthy organic garden, please discard any pesticides and herbicides that you may have used in the past. They have the same effect as second hand smoke on you, your children and pets. Scientific research has shown that these chemicals are responsible for many diseases including cancer.
My mission through my Garden Earth lecture, which I give to hundreds of people throughout New England, is to encourage all of you to garden organically. Reconnecting people’s hearts, hands and minds with the nourishing energy of Mother Nature’s Life giving gardens. In this lecture I tell you how to create and maintain a beautiful organic garden. Organic farming and gardening has been my family’s philosophy on tending the earth for over four hundred years. Please check my lecture schedule on this website.
In Mid to late April Manure all the borders with composted manure, which can be purchased in bags from the garden center, or aged manure from the bottom of the pile at a farm. Then as the ground warms up in May, mulch with fine brown hardwood mulch.
In the vegetable garden, I suggest you mulch with composted manure. Composted manure does not ‘cap’, which means that it does not form a crust like other mulches, consequently air and water can get through to the roots of the plants where it is needed.
Well finally, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed when I say that spring is here. I just put on my coat and stepped outside, lifting my face to the sun. In front of the kitchen window the Daffodils are peaking above ground.
Around the corner on the West side, the Iris is showing foliage and buds will soon bloom on the flowering Almond. I picked up branches from the grass that had been broken and blown during the winter and observing one of my butterfly bushes and lavender, put them on the agenda for pruning within the week.
Near the barn wall the buds on my Carlesii viburnum will open in another few weeks and their perfume will fill the air.
I filled the bird feeders and heard my feathered friends telling the others ‘lunch is served’. Ian and I stirred The English Lady Manure tea and Seaweed tea, and those potent brews will be ready to be purchased in May and can be found on this website.
I consideher April a month of awakening activity, when gardeners experience new energy and enthusiasm, just itching to get their hands in the soil. I am only just beginning to see the faint flush of red on the maples soon, our old nemesis, and weeds will begin to rear their heads. As soon as you see them, I suggest you get busy and pull them up by hand before they get ahead of you.
Did you know that all our cultivated plants began as weeds and at some point humans decided which ones they wanted in our gardens? Some that were not chosen have turned out to be beneficial weeds, like nettles, which are food for butterflies, clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil and oil from jewelweed soothes poison ivy rash. With that thought in mind, Comfrey which is not a weed and for centuries has been cultivated as a medicinal plant soothes the rash from poison ivy when added to bath water or used as a tea.
Young Dandelion foliage is nutritious and tasty in salads. Soon they will appear in my field on the west side and my mouth is watering in anticipation. Some beneficial weeds encourage songbirds and other wildlife to linger in the garden; the weed seeds are an important food source for them.
In the garden, after problem weeds have been pulled, apply an organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics. This product will keep weeds at bay for quite a few weeks. However, do not use this product on newly seeded lawns, as it will prevent grass seed germinating.
I checked on my David Austin roses today and tomorrow will prune any stems that were broken in the winter and in mid April prune the roses that have been in the ground for more than one year, by two to three feet depending on the type of rose. Do not prune roses that were newly planted last season. I remove the old mulch from around the base and add more composted manure and mulch.
I prefer David Austin roses, which are trouble free, repeat bloomers, fragrant and have beautiful colors. Plant bare root roses at the end of April and container roses in mid May.
Note – Planting depth of roses only as deep as they come in their container
Add manure to the planting mix and fill the hole about half full of soil then add water and wait a few minutes to ensure the roses have good drainage.
Do not fertilize at this time. When buds appear in early June add more composted manure and the brown fine bark mulch about four inches away from the base of the plant. You may apply an organic systemic rose food at this time and once monthly until mid August and then stop feeding the roses to allow them to go into a slow dormancy.
David Austin roses I enjoy are as follows:
Evelyn – apricot
Gertrude Jekyll – pink
William Shakespeare – dark pink with a strong damask rose fragrance – reminds me of my Grandmother’s favorite rose ‘Crimson Glory’.
Heritage – pale pink
Fair Bianca – white
All David Austin roses are repeat bloomers, beautiful colors and fragrances.
To give the roots of newly planted roses a boost, add our Seaweed tea which has a root growth hormone with many nutrients ensuring strong, healthy growth.
Be careful clearing winter debris from around rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas, these evergreens are shallow rooted exposing roots to the air can damage them. If winter has eroded soil around any roots, cover them with soil, peat and add compost manure and gently resettle them into the ground. In late April a layer of fine bark mulch, but do not mulch up to the trunk as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the wood.
Conditions in April are the most favorable for new plant-root development. In April evergreen shrubs may be transplanted and new evergreens planted. In the planting hole add composted manure and peat. At the end of May, when the new batch of Seaweed tea is available for purchase, soak the soil with our seaweed tea to quickly establish strong root. Give the roots a work out before planting to release them and open them up so the roots will reach into the surrounding soil for nutrients and water.
In late April plant Gladioli corms at two-week intervals. By following this method, you will get a succession of bloom. Plant the corms eight inches below the soil surface with composted manure; the extra depth helps prevent the heavy blooms of the gladioli from toppling over.
The Red Lily beetle will soon be rearing its ugly head soon; the solution to this problem is organic Neem oil. Add the Neem oil as soon as the foliage reaches four inches in height; this will eliminate the beetle larvae.
Soil solarization – is an effective way to control many soil borne problems, especially tomato blight that results in fruit rot. This blight has been epidemic in New England in the last few years.
In early April cover the soil with clear plastic 4 mils thick where you will be planting your tomatoes. Dig a trench several inches deep around the bed, and press the plastic into close contact with the soil overlapping into the trench. Keep the edges in place by filling the trench with soil that was removed. Leave the plastic in place for two months, during this time the heat from the sun will suffocate nematodes, weed seeds and many disease organisms including the tomato blight.
This process has proved invaluable for gardeners and farmers for years and the beneficial effects last through several seasons.
Apply an organic grub control on the grass in April and again in May to eliminate grubs thereby offering less food for the mole population.
The soil is the most important component of the growing business, compost, composted manure and peat for evergreens; amend the soil to rebuild its structure. The ratio is one part compost to three parts manure. Composted manure, at least three inches on the soil in April, July and October will ensure a rich growing environment.
Good soil structure helps with drainage issues, retains moisture and prevents compaction, particularly important with clay soil. Compost and composted manure breaks down in water, an ideal scenario, encouraging the millions of soil animals beneath the surface to produce nutrients for roots of the plants.
On the Shore in a light sandy soil, humus in the form of compost and manure binds the sand particles together and in heavy soil such as clay the more compost and manure helps to break up the clumps. Grow the soil and it will grow the plants.
When I moved into my farmhouse on the shore seventeen years ago, the soil in my garden was, as you can imagine, sandy – good for drainage but without nutrients. I began adding a quite a few inches of manure to all planted borders in April, July and October and within a few months I could see the color deepening and becoming richer. Within a couple of years the soil was black gold.
When working with composted manure in the garden, gloves should be worn as bacteria is present in this animal bi-product. The bacteria are great for the plants and the soil but not good for your health. When Daffodil foliage is about six inches tall add composted manure around the plants and again when the foliage has gone yellow, add the manure, which will fortify the bulbs for next season.
As well as the amendments of organic aged manure, peat and/or compost you can incorporate an organic root development enhancer like our seaweed tea by soaking the top four inches of the soil around the base of all trees, shrubs and perennials. Organic soil enhancers like our manure and seaweed tea when applied throughout the season to the soil, dissolve in water and are most quickly absorbed by plants and are especially useful for container planting.
Foliage (aka leaf) feedings with the Manure tea in the late afternoon when the pores of the plants are open are a quick acting tonic, supplying nutrients to all plants, including vegetables. Roses in particular like the tea foliar feed especially in the heat and humidity of mid summer, helping to prevent black spot and many insect infestations.
The Daffodils will soon be in bloom and when the bloom has past do not cut the leaves of any of your spring flowering bulbs, the leaves send down energy into the bulbs to store for next season’s nutrition.
April is the time to tackle a new lawn or patch seed, use only good quality seed and organic fertilizers.
The soil is still damp and wet and we can still get a late frost, I can hear you groan, me too! Keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Do not panic if you are not able to get the April tasks done until May, your garden will wait for you and the constancy that is Mother Nature will continue to keep your patch of earth flourishing.
Enjoy the pleasure of being outdoors now, inhaling the warm fragrance of awakening soil and experience the connection with growing things. Do not overdo it; warm up the body before any garden labor and stay well hydrated with lots of water.
We are inexorably entwined with the earth and know that even the smallest gesture of a garden has positive rewards and the effects not only on you but our planet. I’ll see you next time in your garden.
“Those March winds will blow\
And we will have snow
And what will the Robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll hide in the barn, to keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing”.
March is a very unpredictable month and I know you are really itching to get out in the garden, but it pays to be cautious. Do not work the soil around your plants as its too cold and wet and can damage friable root systems. A clean edge with a sharp spade makes the borders look neat and is a first step to you getting back in shape after winter’s hibernation.
In late March APPLY A TOP DRESSING OF MANURE: Manure builds soil structure, aids in drainage and encourages dormant nutrients to come alive for a good planting environment. Poultry manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels of all manures; the drawback to this manure is that the odor is rather objectionable. Horse manure is about .5% nitrogen and cow manure, is .25 % nitrogen. If you get horse and cow manure from the farm ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile; the oldest stuff, as fresh manure will burn the plants. Or buy bags of manure from the garden center.
You can use The English Lady Manure Tea and The English Lady Seaweed Tea, the recipe passed down through my family for hundreds of years. These teas are excellent for soaking seeds overnight before planting in March. To be eco conscious start tender annuals in old milk or juice cartons; make sure all containers are clean.
Seaweed from the shore is excellent as mulch or compost it; rinse it first to remove sea salt. Seaweed contains trace elements that plants need and also growth promoting hormones. If you spread it like manure apply 1-2 lb per 100 square feet of garden each spring.
ON A CLOUDY DAY – Remove protective covering gradually from shrubs and perennials. In exposed garden areas where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid to late April depending on the weather. Cold wind is more damaging and drying than extreme cold and frost.
FROST HEAVE: If some of the perennials, trees and shrubs planted last fall heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil until mid May when they can be replanted.
Butterfly bush and the Smoke bush (Cotinus) to two feet from the ground in late March.
Prune Forsythia after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.
Prune roses when the forsythia blooms. For their first full year in the ground do not prune roses. Do not remove the winter protective mulch from around the base of the roses yet, wait until early May, then apply a dressing of manure and mulch. Do not begin to feed an organic rose food until the end of May and discontinue feeding roses in mid August.
Hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by the new spring growth.
Prune Spirea down to six inches from the ground.
Prune Lavender in April
Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra) prune out oldest branches in late March
Lilac – before leaf growth begins, cut back all old branches to various lengths from two to five feet, keeping in mind a good shape of the shrub. Sprinkle lime around the base and add manure.
BACKSCRATCH: When the lawn is dry, rake it lightly and remove excess debris such as leaves and dead twigs. Raking gently will also raise the mat up so the lawn can breathe again. Aerating machines are useful to develop a healthy lawn. Puncture holes with the aerator and pull out plugs of soil every four to six inches; after this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced. Stay clear of those large thatching machines, they damage the grass.
GRASS Fertilizer: Apply an organic fertilizer before the grass begins to grow. Reseed bare or sparse spots reseed in April after loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, cover the seed with salt hay to keep the seed warm and to prevent wind from blowing the seed away. Water the seed for the first three weeks. Do not blast the area with water, which will also scatter the seeds.
MOLES: to keep down the mole population in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month for four months; less grubs, less food for the moles. Apply organic pre-emergent crabgrass formulas in March and April.
DEADHEAD: the crocuses when they start to look a mess; do not cut off the leaves; the leaves make food for in the bulbs for next season’s bloom.
DAFFODILS: When the green shoots emerge, spread an organic bulb food around the plants and water in well. Do not let the fertilizer come in contact with the unfurling foliage.
DAFFODILS FOR INDOORS: the stems release a sap like “goop” that harms other flowers. Before adding Daffodils to an arrangement, cut the stems at an angle, and leave them in a vase half filled with lukewarm water for a couple of hours. Discard that water and add the Daffodils to the other flowers. If you recut the stems you will need to repeat the process.
ORGANIC FERTILIZER FOR PERENNIALS: When perennials are about four inches above soil level, about the second or third week of April, depending on the weather, apply an organic fertilizer, but if you put down manure you will not need the fertilizer. Be careful working around any plants in the garden when the soil is still wet and cold as roots can be disturbed.
At the end of April DIVIDE late blooming perennials that have become too large or have not been flowering as profusely. Discard the older, inner parts of the clumps and plant the new outside portions. Do not plant the new divisions any deeper than they were before and certainly not with Irises; just barely cover the root system so they do not fall over.
PLANT Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.
Before planting soak seeds in manure or seaweed tea and now sow SEEDS indoors of gaillardia, salvia, marigold and zinnia indoors, also seeds of petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena in sphagnum moss to prevent damping off if these did not get sown in February. Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap creating a mini-greenhouse, which provides the moisture the seeds need to germinate.
NOTE: Remove the plastic once the seeds have germinated, the soil needs to drain and air circulation is needed around the stems.
If you are going away on business, vacation etc. put the plastic covers back on the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners; they will stay moist, but be sure the plants do not come in contact with the plastic.
START tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.
DORMANT SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open. Spray with The English Lady Seaweed Tea to encourage fruiting and call in a professional company if you notice any disease on the trees. Ask the company is they use organic products; you do not want chemical pollutants in the garden.
HOUSEPLANTS: As a general rule I suggest repotting of house plants when they are growing vigorously in spring and summer. Water the plant, turn it sideways on a newspaper and gently slide it from the pot. Repot in fresh potting soil in a pot only two inches larger than the original. With the plant firmly in place, with the soil about one inch from the rim, water it and give a dilute application of organic fertilizer to lessen the shock of repotting.
Some trouble free foliage plants are: Rubber plant, Spider plant, Aloe, Succulents and Cacti (if you have a sunny window), Ivy, Philodendron, Monstera and Spaphyllum.
Some blooming plants for amongst the foliage ones – I keep my plants in groups touching one another; they enjoy and flourish in the closeness. Cyclamen, African Violets, Kalanchoe and Primula.
To keeps pets from damaging the houseplants, add some cayenne pepper to the water when watering.
GERANIUMS: When the new side shoots appear on those that you brought in at the end of last season and cut back in February, repot them in pots about and inch and a half larger.
Well I think that’s given you plenty to think about at the moment and to get started. Enjoy your garden indoors and out.