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Guide to Early Gardening

Guide to Early Gardening
Anne Jaeger
Portland Tribune

April, and it’s already time for a guide to early gardening. Sure all that warm weather is really messing with our timing but that doesn’t mean you can throw away the rule book. The same rules apply even though they might shift into gear a little sooner. Plants still have the same requirements and the length of daylight they’re getting is the same as last year, but the amount of sunshine and daytime warmth is pretty freaky. So don’t go hog wild yet and plant warm weather crops such as tomatoes yet. Yes, tomato plants will be tempting you at the garden centers, but that doesn’t mean it is really time to plant them. The ground is still too cold at night for them to grow (tomatoes need 50 degree soil temp) so they’ll just sit there. That said the great weather is really forcing our gardening hand a little earlier than usual. So, here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction, right now:
Rose Solution Guide
Let this be the year you stop babying your roses. If they always look diseased and require too much work to maintain, take my advice and plant new disease resistant varieties in their place. You’ll be glad you did. If you can’t bear to yank the old troublemakers, you’ll need to get busy spraying now and repeat every 7 to 10 days. The most common problems are:
*Black Spot. (Ugly black spots on rose leaves) Spray NOW as new growth appears.
Best organic solution? “Rose Defense” Non-toxic and made from Neem oil.
Best chemical spray? Ortho “Garden Fungicide”
*Powdery Mildew. (Rose leaves look like they’ve been dusted with baby powder) Treatment is only necessary when days are 75 degrees and up– but nights are cold.
Best organic solution? “Rose Defense.” Or one tablespoon baking soda mixed with a two tablespoons “Sun Spray Oil” per gallon of water.
Best chemical spray? “Immunox.”
Most professional rose growers and the folks in the Portland Rose Society switch from one fungicide to another by June. PRS also sells the best and most cost effective fertilizer: 40 lb bags go for $15 Call 503-777-4311 for details.

Get Planting!
April is a fantastic month to plant some of the best summer bloomers. It’s now safe to plant annuals (plants that live until fall frost) and perennials (plants that come back year after year.) This is also a great time to pop in some lily bulbs and dahlia tubers. Just add some mulch and make sure they have good drainage and you’re good to go.
Bring those geraniums and fuchsias out of storage too. Cut them back to 4-6” tall then start watering and fertilizing.

Revive the Lawn
*Renovation: First a reality check; bad soil causes bad lawns. You can’t make it perform by pouring more water on it, adding more fertilizer to it or dousing it with more chemical fixes. So feed the soil and you feed the lawn.
Start by thatching your lawn to remove dead grass and moss. Next aerate the soil by punching circular holes down into the root zone. Apply lime (I like to use the blower to play miniature golf with the lime pellets…it gets the lime into the holes faster.)
Apply organic fertilizer (Feather meal is great and comes in pellets too.) Rake until your lawn is smooth and reseed if necessary (10 pounds of seed covers 1,000 square feet.)
*Pest Problems: If you have unusual dead patches of grass which seem to be growing in circumference it might be time to check for the dreaded larvae of the European crane fly. These devils start eating the roots of our grass in the fall and don’t stop until May. If you have them, the damage will be really noticeable now. Maybe you remember seeing the parents last fall. We call them “Mosquito Hawks.” You know those great big bugs that look like mosquitoes (contrary to popular belief mosquito hawks won’t eat mosquitoes) but they do lay eggs in our lawns. If you can count more than 25 grayish larva in a 12” piece of sod (2” deep) cut out of your lawn it’s time to go to the garden store for a spray.

So, I hope the list jogs your memory and gets you motivated. After all, wanna know the best news about this guide to early gardening? There’ll be less work to do in May!