My spring in upstate NY began 1 month earlier this year. Last year it came 1 week late. Global weirdness reared its head once again. That has also prompted the wildlife to come out early.
I have been much too busy getting spring work accomplished to be able to write a blog entry. This one will be short because I have much to do.
So… what should we do in the spring?
1. You first need to take a leisurely stroll around your yard so you can make mental notes of winter damage, spring growth, tasks that need to be done, and to determine locations for any new plants that have been ordered or that you plan to purchase.
2. If you have spring flowering bulbs you may want to clear the leaves from around them so they do not need to struggle breaking through them. If you have mulched plants for the winter, you may want to keep it on for a little while longer. If removed too early it can sometimes cause the plant to grow as soon as the much is removed. Some plants will have their tips frost burned in that case. If you see growth coming through the mulch, then gently pull the mulch away and keep it around the base of the plant. If you wait too long the stem may be yellow and fragile. It is a balancing act.
3. Fertilize the spring bulb flowers so they will have more energy to produce large blooms. You can use a general purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10. Do not fertilize trees and shrubs yet. You should wait until they begin to show green tips.
4. If your ground has thawed you can move any outdoor plants that you planned to relocate. This is a job that should be done just as soon as the frost is out of the ground. I moved 21 honeyberry plants to their permanent location recently. I started them from seed almost two years ago and I was growing them in an unused garden. It appears that they will bloom this year and have berries. The nice thing about moving your own plants that you start is that you can take the soil with them and there is minimal to no risk of setback on young plants. FYI, honeyberries are wonderful. They are the absolute first berry to ripen, beating out strawberries by a week. They make a better jam than blueberries. I plan to make liqueur, wine, jam, and pies with mine. Hence, the reason for planting so many. By starting them from seed I do not need to worry about pollination and my cost was nearly nothing for 21 plants. The price for mail-order honeyberry plants is from $7.79 to 19.99 each. I did the same thing with my mulberry trees last year. The Mulberry trees grew 6’ in one growing season after being relocated from a garden.
5. Prune your trees, especially your fruit trees. First cut the no-brainer limbs. Those are the dead branches and branches that have crossed over onto another limb and are rubbing. Next you cane prune to shape your trees. In regards to fruit trees, there are two methods; prune for esthetics or prune for production and ease of maintenance.
a. Pruning for esthetics focuses on the shape and balance of the tree with no concern for fruit production. They are there for looks.
b. Pruning for production and ease of maintenance is to prune the tree so it is low, spreading outward, and with the center more open for ventilation. It will be easier to spray the trees, harvest fruit, and keep the center of the tree from rotting. They are not too pleasing to look at during the winter, but once the leaves come out they look just fine.
6. If you need composed manure get it now. There are a million uses for it. I get it by the truck load. If it is composted well with no sign of wood shavings you can mix it with your soil when planting flowers, trees, and vegetables. If you can still see wood shavings, then only use it as mulch. Do not use composted manure for starting seeds. There are too many negative attributes like fungus and bacteria. I used most of mine for making two mini-hugelkultur gardens for my Vidal Blanc grape plants that should be arriving soon. I also used it to plant hop rhizomes and will use it to plant my fruit trees that are on order.
7. Plant your seeds in cells and flats indoors. I will plant mine on the 24th of March this year. If you are in a warmer zone you can plant them now. Depending on where you are you could have already planted them indoors. Be sure to give them LOT of light so they do not leg leggy. The T5HO florescent growing lights work well for these. Be sure to get the 6500k color temperature bulbs.
8. Depending on your growing zone, you may be able to plant your onions outdoors. Be sure the soil is not saturated. If it is, then wait to do this.
9. Fertilize your garlic. I use a 5-10-10 at this time of year and then will increase the nitrogen when the danger of frost is past. Fertilizing now gives them a little boost without putting them in too fast of a growth mode.
10. It is tempting to fertilize everything, but be patient. Wait until you see green tips coming out from buds. Otherwise you may encourage buds to break prematurely and subject them to a late frost.
11. Now is a good time to buy fertilizer. Some stores, like Walmart, will discount old stock from last year. I got mine for about half price this past week. I bought enough for two years.
12. Buy your spring planted flower tubers. Once you get them home put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant them. I buy them early just so I can do that. The longer they remain dry in the store, the worse shape the tubers will be in. If you read my fall blog then yours are still tucked away in your refrigerator. I checked on mine and they look like they will make it. They do not always do so; however, my new method of using coco coir is proving to work marvelously. My corms are doing well too. So exciting!
13. It is tempting to plant flowers, but you need to be patient. Wait until the danger of frost is past in your zone. You might be able to plant your flower tubers and corms a week before the average last day of frost. If you want a jump on things, then plant your tubers in pots and begin growing them indoors. Be sure to have grow lights.
14. Cut your potato sprouts off to about ¼” long if you have been storing potatoes for planting this year. I found that if they grow too long the potatoes will not have enough energy once planted. Furthermore, long potato sprouts do not grow well. Short green sprouts forced to grow in the light of a window for a few days do well. I do this just before planting them.
15. Weed out the onions that are growing in your stored seed onion bags. They should not be planted for seed if they are growing. That means that the genetics in that onion are not for long storage. I do this culling process twice while they are in storage. It also keeps some from rotting and spoiling the rest.
16. Build any planting structures that you have plans to make. That way your plants can go right in when you get them. I have two more projects to build; a wagon wheel trellis for a special ordered clematis, and a grape vine arbor that will house a swing for two people.
17. Fix any fences that are down or crooked.
18. Clean out your herb garden and flower beds. Be sure not to pull out the perennials or biennials!
19. Plant horse radish and hops. (if the frost is out)
20. Clean out the dead stems from your chives. Mine are growing well and I should be able to start picking them in about a week, if not sooner. If you do not have chives growing, then plant some now. They are the easiest plant to grow and they come back every year. I am always anxious for the first mashed potatoes with chives!
21. Plant rhubarb if you are going to do it.
22. If the frost is out, plant any purchased trees. They should be dormant. You can plant them if the soil is wet. Some stores already have trees to buy, but their leaves are already out. That is never a good thing. The cold is not good for those leaves and they will need to grow more if they get killed. That is too much for a tree that has been dig up and stored all winter.
I am sure there are more tasks to do, but I need to get back to editing my 4th book. (6th round)
My ordered plants will be in soon and I am so excited to get them! One hole is already dug and prepared. I will get the others ready next week.
Enjoy your spring gardening!