Once April hits in the Willamette Valley, most of us are anxious to get our hands dirty! This means it’s time to consider the basics of your garden area– sunlight, access, soil health and water. If you don’t have an existing garden, be sure you select a spot that is easy to access, has at least six hours of sunlight each day and is convenient to a hose or drip system. Ensuring that your soil is well aerated with healthy tilth will help roots establish and prevent disease. You can read about tilling here.
According to the Oregon State Extension, good soil “warms early in the spring, is loamy enough to provide oxygen to the roots of growing plants, holds water for several days, and is fertile enough to grow a good crop of weeds.”ˡ Obviously, weeds are not our goal, but you get the idea.
So let’s focus on some basics about soil:
- Wake it up! After the rains, soil has likely been depleted of nutrients. Add fertilizer AND compost to improve the overall aeration of the soil and provide food to hungry organisms.
- Turn cover crops into the soil where necessary. Be sure to allow a few weeks for the organic material to break down before planting.
- If your garden soil is too heavy and too wet to till, get a planting mix and place it 3 or 4 inches deep to plant early season vegetables. Work this in after harvest and be ready for warm season crops.
As the temperature warms up Black Spot is a common site in many rose gardens. To help avoid the problem, be sure to remove any infected leaves so they don’t re-infect the plant. You can also take care to water at the base of the plant so as to avoid spreading Black Spot to new leaves. If spraying is required to control this fungus, use an additive to the spray called a “spreader-sticker” for better adhesion to the foliage.
Colorful perennials are arriving at our Corner Store on a regular basis these days. One eye-catcher is Heuchera ‘Sweet Tart;’ its yellow foliage will brighten any garden and it’s topped-off by a delicate stem of pink flowers.
Compost or top-dress perennial vegetable crops such as artichokes.
In the garden, this will be a busy month to plant, among others, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, onion sets, peas, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radish, and spinach. Many are available as starts in garden centers if you want to save the time required to start your own plants from seed. On average, the final frost date is typically mid-month. Monitor nightly temperatures and have your floating row cover handy. We could still get a cold snap that could damage fragile plantings. Floating row covers also protect your newly planted veggies from insect damage; it creates a barrier to keep out pests like adult cabbage maggot flies and carrot rust flies.
Warm season vegetables (i.e. tomatoes and peppers) are arriving in garden centers. If you plan on planting them outside, and not in a greenhouse, resist the temptation to buy them now! It is simply too cool outside for these guys and they will struggle to survive. Waiting a month for warmer temperatures will produce tomatoes that are worth the wait!
Young seedlings are susceptible to a fungus called “dampening off”. Afflicted seedlings often rot. Prevention requires cleanliness and good ventilation. When reusing old containers be sure to wash them with a solution of bleach and water.
It’s time to fertilize berry batches (blueberries, cane berries, etc). There are many fertilizer options to choose from in the market place, like compost or mulch and other commercial options if you choose. For example, blueberry bushes would prefer an acidic fertilizer while raspberry bushes would prefer more manure-based compost like our Barnyard Compost.
Strawberries are a favorite for aphids and spittlebugs. If they are found on your plants, rinse them off or apply insecticidal soap.
Monitor stone fruit trees (i.e. cherry, plum) for blossom blight which typically looks like wilted flowers and can affect the bark too. Apply a spray as needed for control.
Indoor Plants & Herbs
Start your more delicate herbs indoors. The days are getting longer and indoor plants are noticing the increase in sunlight too! As they reach for the sunlight make sure to keep them fertilized. Soon they may out grow their current container and require re-potting. Monitor their soil for a lack of moisture, as root-bound plants dry out quickly.
With warming temperatures on the horizon, citrus plants that may have spent the winter in your greenhouse can soon start making their way outside. Hibiscus and other more fragile plants can follow them outside in a month or so.
This is an important month for lawn feeding (if not already accomplished in March). Ideally, your lawn would be fertilized twice in the spring and once in the fall. Strong formulas require watering in, while organic or slow-release types generally do not. We recommend using All Season Plus with Iron and Humic Acid, as well as additional Ferrous Sulfate (to green it up and control moss) and lime (to balance pH).
In addition to feeding your lawn, now is also the perfect time to clean it up! Remove any existing moss and thatch build-up. Add some Lawn Base Planting Soil to help with any resulting grading issues. Reseed any bare patches or thin areas. Cover the seed with a thin layer of peat moss and water as needed.
Various Jobs Around Your Oregon Garden
This is an important month for pest and disease prevention throughout the garden. Take the necessary steps to prevent issues. Keeping a tidy garden goes a long way in controlling many garden problems. And having a good fertilizer schedule will create healthy plants that can handle tough situations. However, be watchful and remedy any issue ASAP.
Prune and fertilize shrubs after they bloom (rhodies, azaleas, camellias, etc.) and mulch if needed. Remove spent bloom stalks from daffodils and other spring bulbs. Leave the foliage until it starts to turn yellow. Tops are left to produce food for the bulbs.
Ornamental grasses are starting to show signs of growth. If not already done, cut down their old growth from last year. Be sure to make your cuts a few inches above the crown of the plant.
Clean up hiding places for slugs. Employ your favorite control methods. When using baits, be sure to use them cautiously around your pets and follow the directions accordingly. Re-apply after rains.
Weeds are sprouting! It is easiest to remove them when they are small and your back will thank you! Once the weeds are removed, reduce maintenance by applying a layer of Bark-O Mulch.
As temperatures warm up, check your local garden centers for Ladybugs and beneficial nematodes. Ladybugs provide natural control for common garden pests like aphids and whiteflies. Beneficial nematodes aid in the suppression of crane-fly larvae and root weevils that live in the soil.
Clean out any containers that still hold last year’s annuals. Refill with Super Natural Potting Mix and start planting! Often times these small gardens can create a dramatic impact in any space.