5/16/14: In the garden this week

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In the perennial garden, columbine and tiarella are in full bloom; native geraniums are just starting to bloom; and Canada anemones and Virginia waterleaf are showing buds. The earliest viburnum to bloom, V. prunifolium, is in full bloom, as is chokeberry (see the photo below). Other viburnums, dogwood shrubs, and ninebark are showing buds and should bloom within the next two weeks. The earliest summer-blooming perennial in my garden, Penstemon digitalis, is beginning to put up flower stalks. And all the perennials have finally emerged from dormancy.

The cooler weather, particularly the relatively cool nights, is predicted to continue this week, so we can think of ourselves as still being in mid-spring for at least a week longer. So continue with your spring gardening chores:

plant cool weather crops such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, and peas. It you have room, sow a row each week. Keep the seedlings well watered. DO NOT plant warm-weather crops (almost anything besides the ones I listed above) until sometime in late May. The nights are still quite cool.

reseed bare lawn patches while the weather is still cool, or, better yet, plant something else such as native perennials or shrubs. Lawn grasses will not grow in a spot that is very shady or very wet. DO NOT feed the lawn until Memorial Day (if you feel you must feed).

— while the weather, especially the night-time temperature, remains cool, continue to plant and divide and move perennials. Just be sure to keep them well-watered after you plant, especially if the weather turns warm and sunny.

do not do any pruning except removal of dead or diseased material while woody plants are in active growth. They are using all their energy to accomplish the vital tasks of leafing out, blooming, and setting fruit. They have no energy to spare for making scar tissue. The next window of pruning time will come in midsummer. The exception is very early blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, which can be pruned once they’re fully leafed out. Prune early bloomers in late spring or early summer to allow them time to make next year’s flower buds.

– continue to pull up garlic mustard. However, because the plant is already setting seed, DO NOT COMPOST IT. The temperature that develops in most home compost piles is not high enough to kill weed seeds. Discard the plants instead (or, if you are sure the plants haven’t been aprayed, eat them–there are many recipes for garlic mustard pesto and other delicacies on the web). This is one invasive you can really get rid of, since it’s a biennial. Pull it up this year and next year, and it’s gone from your property except for isolated seedlings from time to time.

Soon it probably be time to plant summer crops and tender herbs such as basil. Check back next week for an update. In the meantime, enjoy the garden after the rain tomorrow.

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