New England

April, 2008
Regional Report

Treat Lawns with Corn Gluten

You can reduce lawn weeds and fertilize at the same time by spreading corn gluten meal on the lawn with your spreader. It's a safe, organic option for preventing the germination of weeds, and it provides a small dose of nitrogen fertilizer. Don't use it in any areas you're trying to reseed or in the vegetable garden where you'll be planting seeds.

Start Early Greens Indoors

To get a head-start on fresh greens, sow seeds in a container indoors. Keep the container outside during the day, weather permitting, and bring it in at night if the temperatures dip below freezing or protect it in a cold frame or with a row cover fabric. A mesclun mix can be kept in a container but heading lettuce is best planted into the garden.

Patch Lawn in Spring

If you have dead spots in the lawn, plan to patch them before the summer heat. Loosen the soil and work in some good quality compost, sprinkle grass seed, rake lightly, and tamp to assure good seed-to-soil contact. Mulch with a thin layer of straw. Water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist until the grass sprouts.

Pruning Woody Perennials

Woody perennials differ in the way they should be cut back in spring. If butterfly bush has died to the ground, cut the dead stems to the ground. Otherwise just shorten them by about one-third. Cut back Russian sage, rue, and artemisias to about 8 to 12 inches from the ground. Don't prune lavender until new growth appears and then just shorten the stems by about one-third. Heather should be lightly pruned to remove the old flowers and the tips of the shoots, but don't cut back to brown wood, stay in the green.

Sow Peas

Once the soil reaches 45 degrees and is dried out enough to dig in, 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. Set up your trellis first, then plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep. Cultivate very shallowly because the roots grow close to the surface; better yet, pull the weeds by hand so you don't accidentally cut off a plant.

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