4/8/16: In the garden this week

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Serviceberry buds have reached their “string of pearls” stage. Gorgeous!

It’s cold again! A cool spring means that most plants stay in bloom longer, so enjoy the early spring bloomers. And if you want to brave the weather and get out into the garden this week, there’s plenty to do:

— you should have cleaned up the vegetable garden last fall, but if you didn’t, do it now! Remove dead plants and weeds, spread compost or rotted manure to prepare for spring planting.

— continue to direct-sow seeds of cool-weather crops such as lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas. They’ll germinate and grow when the weather is warm and stall when it turns cold. But cold weather won’t hurt them, and you’ll have spring greens as early as possible.

— start vegetable seeds for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and squash. You can find a list of dates for starting seeds in this post.

— Weed! Dig up wild garlic and dandelions and pull garlic mustard. It’s too late to pull western bittercress, which has already gone to seed. Mustards go to seed particularly early, so it’s a good idea to pull them as soon as you recognize them. And they’re easy to pull.

— as weeds and lawn grasses begin to grow, neaten the edges of your perennial and shrub beds. It’s easier to do it now, when the weeds’ and grasses’ root systems are relatively small, than it will be once the weather turns warm.

— it’s really a bit too early to divide and plant perennials, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve been dividing and moving very hardy, early appearing plants for a couple of weeks now: purple lovegrass and Junegrass (but not little bluestem, which isn’t in active growth yet); ginger, shade asters, sedges; coreopsis and sun-loving asters are among the plants that are extremely cold hardy and surviving early division quite well.

— if you’re planning on ordering native plants from specialty nurseries, get your order in as soon as possible. Many companies are already sold out of the most popular plants. Reputable companies will start shipping in late April or early May.

— if you or your lawn service has sown grass seed, water several times a day until the grass is up. Otherwise you’re just scattering birdseed. And it’s much too early to fertilize the lawn. Wait until Memorial Day. Even better, don’t fertilize at all this year. I bet the grass will do just fine.

What’s in bloom in your garden?

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Native plum tree is in full bloom, while most native trees aren’t even thinking of leafing out yet. The light-green growth at top right is a Norway maple. The big ash tree at center left is still bare.

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