University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article
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PLANTING ASPARAGUS AND OTHER APRIL GARDENING TIPS

Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist

Planting asparagus crowns, sowing seeds, and finishing pruning are some of the gardening activities for this month.
   
As soon as the soil thaws and is dry enough to work, plant bare-root asparagus crowns. Choose a spot in full sun for these long-lived perennials.  Set roots in a one-foot deep trench, then cover roots with a few inches of soil that has been amended with compost. Add more soil as the plants grow until the trench is full.
   
The first crops that can be sown in the ground once the soil has dried out enough are beets, carrots, lettuce, parsley, peas, radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard. Plan to make successive sowings every couple of weeks to prolong the harvest.
   
Once the soil reaches 45 degrees and is dried out enough to dig, it's time to plant peas. Choose a location in full sun and orient the rows north-south to take full advantage of the sunlight. Turn over the soil with a garden fork, or rototill if it's a new bed. Soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight (no longer or they may rot), and dust the seeds with an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to help the roots take in more nitrogen. You can find this inoculant online or at many full service garden centers. Put up a trellis so the plants can climb.
   
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.
   
Don’t  prune spring-flowering plants such as lilacs and forsythia. The latter need to be pruned later this year, after they finish blooming. Prune evergreens just after they begin growth, usually in May, by using fingers to shorten the new soft growth called “candles”.  Wait to prune maples and birches until after they leaf out to prevent the sap “bleeding”.
   
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.
   
Help the Earth by celebrating the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 (www.earthday.org).  Started by the Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson as a way of bringing attention to how people’s actions were endangering the planet, it is as important today as then.  Nearly 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, which now has grown to over 22,000 organizations in 192 countries. To help them reach the goal of 2 billion “acts of green”, as a gardener you might plant trees, reduce energy consumption through less reliance on power equipment, or buy more locally-grown plants.
   
Other gardening activities for this month include getting your soil tested if you haven’t in recent years (kits are available from your local Extension office), cutting back ornamental grasses (about 6 to 12 inches high), tuning up lawn mowers and power equipment, cleaning and sharpening garden tools, and buying a bouquet of daffodils or tulips.
        
 (Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).

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