University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article


PLANTING ASPARAGUS AND OTHER APRIL GARDENING TIPS

   
Charlie Nardozzi, former Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Planting asparagus, making raised beds, and dividing rhubarb are some of the gardening activities for this month.
           
As soon as the soil thaws and is dry enough to work in, plant bare-root asparagus crowns. Choose a spot in full sun for these long-lived perennials.  Set roots in a 1-foot-deep trench, then cover roots with a few inches of soil that's been amended with compost. Add more soil as the plants grow until the trench is full.
           
Raised beds dry out faster and warm up more quickly in spring than regular garden beds, so include at least a few in your landscape for early planting.  They can be as simple as a flat-topped mound of soil, or as elaborate as decorative stone- and wood-framed beds. Fill them with soil that's been amended with lots of compost. Whatever you choose, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well plants grow.
           
If your rhubarb plants seem crowded, plan to divide them as soon as the ground thaws. Choose a cloudy, cool day, dig up the whole crown, and break off the young side shoots, trying to keep as many roots intact as possible.  Transplant the mother plant back in the original hole amended with a shovel full of compost, and plant the babies in a full sun location. Harvest the young plants lightly, if at all, the first year.

If new shoots of your pear, apple, or hawthorn are blackened as though they were burned, that's a sign of fire blight disease. This bacterial disease, if severe, can eventually kill your trees. To control it, prune off infected areas several inches below the damage. Dip your pruners in a weak bleach solution between pruning cuts to avoid spreading the disease to other trees.
           
Once the snow melts you may start to see damage from road salt. To help flush the salt from the soil, water the lawn near roads and walkways several times, especially during dry periods. This will help move the salt down into the subsoil. Once this salt is removed, then you can begin to prepare the thin spots in the lawn for reseeding.
           
Prepare bare-root roses by pruning away any damaged roots, then soak the roots in water for several hours. Dig a hole 18 inches deep and wide, and create a mound of soil in the center. Place the roots in the hole, arranging them around the mound and adjusting the height so the graft is at or just below ground level. Fill in around the roots, firming soil gently, and water well. Mound mulch over the tops to protect the canes while the roots take hold.
           
After a long winter it's tempting to buy those first seedlings, flowers, and vegetable transplants you see on sale.  Just remember these are tender and can be killed easily by freezing temperatures and frosts.  This especially is true as most, early in the season, come from greenhouses or southern climates and haven't been hardened off to cool nights.  If you do buy some now, make sure to not plant out until the last frost date for your area (mid-May to mid-June in our northern climate, depending on locale).  Bring indoors on cold or frosty nights.  If you plant in window boxes and containers, make sure these can be carried indoors too if needed.
   

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