In Delaware, Zone 7, spring has officially sprung. The average last frost date for our county is today, April 9, and looking at the forecast, we just may be safe from further freezing. Break out your shorts! (My cryophilic teenage son never put his away!) Of course, as anxious, antsy, and ambitious as spring weather makes people, it is still too early to plant annual flowers and summer vegetables around here. Growing up, living in plant zone 6, I remember everyone saying you had to wait until Mother’s Day to plant flowers. (And you certainly couldn’t wear white until Memorial Day!) Planting annual flowers isn’t actually a date on your calendar though; it is wholly a temperature issue. Temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit will stress most annual flowers and summer vegetable plants. They could kill them completely, or at minimum, diminish their vitality or potential yield. Certain annual flowers and cold weather crops can be safely planted now (examples are listed below), but for the majority, you will be glad you’ve waited until nighttime temperatures are consistently above the 50 degrees Fahrenheit range. Next to the beach here, that is typically around Arbor Day (if you need a holiday reminder) or May 1st, but certainly keep an eye on the forecast.
This is what you should be doing in the meantime:
GET YOUR LANDSCAPE BEDS READY
Spring is in full force. The weeds are jumping out of the ground, and now is the time to stop them in their tracks. Pull them up by their roots and dispose of their worthless selves. Fertilize using an organic compost. If you’re interested in saving yourself work this summer, use a pre-emergent herbicide such as Preen. Read the label carefully and follow the instructions to prevent weeds. Mulch your landscape beds and they will be ready for annual flowers once Mother Nature says it’s go time!
I am sure you have already heard the annual starting of the engines. Mowers everywhere are roaring back to life. If you are one of those people enchanted by the glamour of a green lawn but have not yet succeeded on your quest, here is some advice when it comes to mowing. Most importantly, do not cut your lawn less than 3 1/2” tall. Grass this height will require less water to stay green, will shade out most weeds, and will become thicker and softer. Another thing recommended is do not bag your lawn. Let the grass clippings remain on the lawn to act as a protectant mulch. If you are looking for that pristine greenery, now is the time to kill any broadleaf weeds that are coming up by using a post-emergent herbicide designed for lawns.
GET YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN READY
Turn your soil over rather than till it. You will get fewer weeds. Dig a full shovel depth down and turn over the soil, raking off the top. It’s more work in the beginning but will produce a better crop. If you are growing summer vegetables from seedlings, you still have time to seed. Cucumbers, melons, and squash grow quickly and can be started in April. Remember they will need to be hardened off before planting them in your garden. Gradually expose them to outdoor weather beginning at the end of this month or beginning of May.
DO SOME PLANTING
It’s not too late to plant your cold crops! Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and spinach, lettuce, kale, and other greens can go in the ground now! Divide, move, and replant perennials that have gotten too big. April showers, longer days, and warming temperatures make this an ideal time to plant perennials, trees, and shrubs. Some annual flowers that can tolerate colder nights can be planted in April. These include petunias, calibrachoa, snapdragons, bacopa, osteospermum, alyssum, and lobelia. Please keep in mind that many big box stores will start selling annual flowers this month, even if the temperatures haven’t warmed up. They have the flowers shipped from warmer climates and will be happy to sell them to you, without regard for whether or not they will survive. Many of these plants will be in shock and never flourish, even if they do survive. Buying from a local nursery is always better.
You may not feel like working outside, or maybe all your yard work is done. There are plenty of benefits to working in your garden, but you can, and will, reap benefits just by going outside in your yard. It has been a long winter and you deserve some sunshine! Go outside and enjoy the warmer temperatures as often as you can!
Let us know what you’re doing outside this month! Feel free to share any information and/or pictures of your garden. See you outside!