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Spring is traditionally the time of year that gardeners finally get to break the soil and end their cabin fever. This year is a little different because the winter was so uncharacteristically warm, and spring weather arrived so much earlier than expected. Some expected garden tasks could be taken on earlier this year, and it may be too late for others.
“Obviously, it’s a little bit different this year because of the early warm up,” said Jeneen Wiche, second-generation garden expert.
Tom Scanlan, who farms locally, said his number one tip for gardeners is to make sure to sharpen their tools in the spring. Sharp tools can make gardening tasks much easier.
Jan Milby, member of the Spencer County Homemakers Garden Club, said the most important thing to her in the early spring is doing the weeding.
“You’ve got to get ahead of the weeds now because if you don’t, you’ve lost your best secret weapon,” said Milby, who has 70 roses.
According to Wiche, one of the most important early season tasks is weed control.
“Dad always used to say when the forsythia begin to bloom, the weeds start to germinate,” said Wiche, whose father was Fred Wiche, a garden expert renowned in the Louisville area.
Wiche recommends protein based, pre-emergent products to control weeds before they germinate. It is important to get the weed control done at the right time or it will be too late. Many spring weeds have already germinated this year, but it is not too late to control summer weeds. Wiche said there are different weeds for each season, and weeds continue to germinate throughout the growing season.
“Doing an application in April will help prevent summer weeds from germinating,” Wiche said. “It’s not too late.”
Milby uses an herbicide and mulch on her roses to keep the weeds out. She, like many others, has already started battling the weeds thanks to the record high temperatures this winter and spring. She started fighting dandelions and chickweed in mid-March this year.
Wiche does not like to use chemical weed control in her garden.
“I prefer a more organic solution,” said Wiche. She suggested using corn gluten, which prevents seeds from germinating. The product is simply applied to the lawn, flower beds or other areas that have been planted. While it is fine to use corn gluten on potatoes, onions and other whole plants, it should not be applied to garden areas that will be planted in seed because they would not be able to germinate either, she said.
April is also a good time to prune evergreen hedges, according to Wiche, as long as there is no more threat of a hard freeze. Pruning promotes new growth, and a hard freeze could require a second pruning. It is also a good time to fertilize spring flowering shrubs. Pruning those shrubs should wait until they are finished flowering. It is usually safe to prune summer flowering shrubs as late as June 1.
“I like to use a little compost around plants,” said Wiche, in regard to fertilizer.
Milby also “feeds,” or fertilizes, her roses in early spring.
It is not too late to plant any cool season crop such as asparagus, peas, potatoes, greens, onions and root crops, according to Wiche. Just because the weather was warm during March does not mean that cooler weather will not return. It still could be worth planting any of those crops.