GARDENING ... AND MORE: Sound of spring rain brings back memories
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Apr 16, 2014 | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It is a sure sign that we are about through with cold weather when the spring flowering shrubs start blooming. When they are in full bloom, it’s time to take a look at them to decide if they need some pruning. Surely they need all dead stems cut out but the only pruning most of them need is just a bit to keep them shaped. The exception is the lovely forsythia, which should never be pruned. The long flowing stems are the beautiful part of them. As Ma knew, the best way to prune spring flowering shrubs is to cut large bouquets to take to a friend or place around your house. Ma especially loved the huge mock orange in her yard and would cut large branches to take to the cemetery on the farm.

April is a good time to fertilize evergreens, which usually need an acid-type fertilizer. The exception is the yew, which needs a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Did you know that you shouldn’t plant a yew near a rhododendron or azalea because they love acid and the yew won’t tolerate acid, so never the twain should meet.

Another mistake some of us make is to add mulch each year to shallow rooted plants until the mound of mulch is several inches high. Those shallow rooted plants are azaleas, rhododendrons, boxwoods, dogwoods and a few others. That fresh mulch may look good but it can kill your plants. If you want that fresh-mulched look, rake off some of the old mulch first.

If you get an Easter lily, lucky you. They can grow and bloom in your yard for many years. First, before you set out the bulb, punch a hole in the bottom of the foil to let water drain. After the flower fades, set the plant outside in the sun. After a week or so, remove the plant from the pot and plant it in a sunny spot in your garden in rich soil. The bulbs multiply and bloom each year.

Evergreens in need of shaping and thickening may be sheared in April, as the new growth gets under way. It’s also a good time to shape boxwoods.

After daffodils have bloomed, cut back the dead flower stalk. Never pull them up as that leaves a hole in the top of the bulb. They must ripen naturally if you want big blooms and lots of them. Don’t rubber band the leaves. After the leaves have yellowed and fallen over, cut the tops down rather than pull them up.

Most daylilies need to be divided every 3 or 4 years and it’s very easy to do. I put a shovel, a sharp one, down in the middle of the plant and push down through the roots. Then you have two plants to move or to leave one and move the other. If you wish to move the whole plant, wait until the plant makes its first blooms. The dividing can be done anytime because daylilies are a tough plant and don’t seem to mind.

One more time, a reminder to spray your evergreens for bag worms in April. When you see the bags, you’re in trouble.

For a long time, I wondered how my grandmother got so much work done without ever seeming to be in a hurry. As I got older, I realized that Ma didn’t do any unnecessary work. She didn’t have a yard full of flowers and those that she had were easy to care for. She did no unnecessary weeding or hoeing. She waited until something needed care. She also never worked in the field. Most of her neighbor women worked in the tobacco, either in the field or the barn but not Ma. She had a fairly small vegetable garden behind the house and after Pa had ploughed it and helped her plant it, she did the rest. I don’t think she got hysterical if a few weeds grew there. She used straw from the stable between rows and around the edges of the garden.

There was a lot of work in summer, canning and drying vegetables but she always tried to leave at least part of the afternoon free if possible. She managed to find time for a bath and clean dress for the afternoon, which was set aside for things that she could do on the porch, such as breaking beans, etc.

The thing that made her life seem easier than it surely must have been was that she was organized. Everything had a place and everything was in its place. There were certain things that had to be done and those things were done at the right time and in an orderly fashion. She also anticipated problems and special chores.

But most of all, she had Pa. They loved and understood one another. If she needed his help, he anticipated it. If he could plan ahead to make life better for the two of them, he did it. Looking back, I realize that they were a perfect match and lived such a good life though they had few of life’s luxuries. She was indeed a wise woman.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments. I had a call from a reader today regarding carpenter bees. I had to admit ignorance of those bees but I referred her to Bob at the hardware store who knows a little bit about everything.
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