Everybody gets so excited to get outside and to start planting something, anything…and as soon as possible. Ok, sure you can start by replacing a shrub or a tree, but be sure that yours is really dead first. Many plants look bad at the beginning of the season but soon perk up after a warm-up in the weather and a couple of good rains. I am just now seeing some of my trees showing signs of life and breaking dormancy. It is enough for me to see the tulips and the other bulbs that were planted last fall, starting to sprout with the buds of hyacinths and daffodils ready to bloom at any moment.
If your flowering shrubs or trees, especially fruit trees, are notorious for insects and disease, consider the use of dormant oil spray. This is really your last chance to get it applied before real growth starts to happen. The temperatures need to be above 50 degrees and none of your leaves should be opening up. You may have a little more time for spraying late items such as grapevines or raspberries, but why not just do everything now. Keep a close watch out for mealy-bugs on your euonymus vines.
Rose bushes are another story all their own. There is no need to rush out and prune them. In fact it is best to wait until early to mid-April before the final cut. It is normal for many parts of the rose bush to die-out during the winter season, especially high up on the stems. Therefore you must wait to see which parts of your rose plant is still alive so that you can logically determine where to cut.
Generally you should only leave between 4 to 6 sturdy “arms”, or branches on the bush and they should be ones that point away from the center of the plant. It is okay to cut into healthy, green stems, in fact it is recommended to cut just a little further down than where the dead stubs end. Climbing roses probably should not be cut at all unless they are growing in the way of the sidewalk or drive, or covering a window. Start fertilizing in late April after you see plenty of growth.
If you are a vegetable gardener, this would be an ideal time to get out there and roto-till your garden. Be prepared to cover the freshly tilled soil with plastic to hold moisture, but not allow the patch to flood during upcoming rains and to also heat up the soil. Mix in leaves, compost, lime and granulated fertilizers, but not too much.
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