Editor’s note: Judy Dembsey, master gardener and member of the Acton Garden Club, has put together some gardening tips for April to help your garden be a success.
· Keep off the grass when the soil is wet to prevent compaction. It reduces the spaces available for oxygen, making it difficult for grass roots to grow. This will have negative consequences for the lawn when the weather gets hot and dry. Grass plants with reduced root systems struggle for survival under such stress.
· Be sure the lawn is dry before raking to remove branches, stones and other debris. Fertilize only if a late fall application was not made.
· Do not work your soil when it is wet, it will damage the soil structure. Use the squeeze test. Take a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil crumbles easily when you open your hand, it is ready to be dug. It is not ready if water comes out.
· Begin to edge beds and prepare for mulching. Check the depth of landscape mulches. Replenish before annual weeds begin to germinate. Mulches should be 2 to 4 inches deep, but not in contact with plants. It’s best to do it before plants emerge. Mulch may not be needed every year. A light top dressing may be adequate.
· Prune summer and fall flowering shrubs now. The appearance of Forsythia flowers is a good indicator. Prune: butterfly bush (Buddleia), smoke tree (Cotinus), Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, beautyberry (Callicarpa), panicle Hydrangea, summersweet (Clethra), sweetspire (Itea) and Spirea.
· Hydrangeas that bloom on last year’s old wood should be pruned after flowering. Remove only dead stems at this time. Prune climbing Hydrangea and train to its vertical support. With spring flowering shrubs, wait until they have completed blooming.
· Prune out winter breakage as soon as seen. With broadleaf evergreens such as Rhododendron, boxwood, and holly, wait a month or two to see if the browned leaves will drop off and re-leaf naturally.
· Perennials to shear include anything left standing last fall. Cut back ornamental grass, sedum and carex. Give them a hard trim to the ground. Remove old Hellebore leaves, trim Epimedium and last year’s fern fronds before new growth begins. Cut back any vinca or ivy browned by harsh winter winds, but leave browned rhododendron alone for now and prune after blooming.
· If you decide a rose or a shrub needs to be transplanted, April is a good time before they leaf-out.