Setting Up For Spring Success with Mike Darcy

April 2, 2018

There is much to do in the garden during the month of April and with a few chores done now, there will be less maintenance later in the season. I like to keep maintenance chores to a minimum so that I can enjoy my garden and think of it as a relaxing place to be. There is enough stress that many of us deal with every day and the garden should not be a stressful place. With some advance planning now, some of that potential stress can be eliminated.

Slug damage is almost a given in any garden in western Oregon and Washington. By baiting early, or using other control measures, much damage can be eliminated. The tender succulent new growth of many plants can be a tempting treat for a slug or snail. Snails now also have to be included as a garden pest to contend with. In years past, I rarely saw a snail in my garden, but that is not the case today. Control measures for both slugs and snails are similar. Also, be on the lookout for slug eggs, they look like small round pearls.

Some plants are particularly susceptible to slug and snail damage and by being aware of these plants, damage can often be kept to a minimum. I have found that Hosta plants are like a magnet for slugs and snails, as is new growth from dahlias. If baiting is your preference, apply bait in the evening on damp soil. Repeat applications will be necessary especially with very wet springs. Baits should not be scattered throughout the garden, but rather as protective measures around susceptible plants. Be aware that some baits are toxic to dogs so be sure to read and follow label instructions. Wilco carries organic baits that are considered non toxic to pets.

I have many potted plants in containers on my deck and throughout the garden. For those containers that had annual plants this past summer, I remove about half of the soil and add new potting soil that I mix with the old. I usually add an organic fertilizer at this time and mix it thoroughly into the soil before I re-plant. For those pots with perennial plants or shrubs and small trees, it is a good idea to lift them out and observe if they appear to be root bound. If they are, wearing gloves, I rub my hands over the roots to remove some of the old soil and at this time, I also do some root pruning. Then I add fresh potting soil to replenish what has been removed.

Roses should have been pruned by this time, but if they have not, it is not too late. It is better to do it now rather then not at all. If roses have not performed as well as expected, it would be a good idea to take a cup or so of the soil and get a pH test. Often many plant organizations will offer free pH testing at their meetings. It is not unusual for roses to need lime and having the soil tested will give an indication if this is necessary. This is a good time of year for an application of lime if it is needed. Once roses have been pruned, wait until they are in full leaf before applying any fertilizer. If the roses are not growing the fertilizer will be wasted.

Most gardeners are aware of the needs of their particular garden and taking some appropriate measure now will produce benefits in many ways later in the season. I try not to make gardening complicated because it is not and we can often learn from our mistakes.

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