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In the Garden with Extension Educator Larry Zilliox

April 14, 2008

When the first few days of nice warm weather appears we rush out into the flower garden to see what has survived. Our first instinct is to start uncovering everything and let it awaken to the new season. As we all know Mother Nature is unpredictable during this time frame and can send us some chilling weather. I recall last year we had several days in late March that reached the 70's, then the following week not a day above freezing. It killed a number of fruit trees that must have been in a vulnerable stage. I lost two apples and a cherry out of my orchard. You may have heard friends talk about how the trees blossomed and then died the next week. Hopefully that will not happen again.

My general advice is to leave our mulches on as long as possible to delay the growing of the plants, especially our strawberries which can get hit with a late frost while they are blooming. This normally kills the blossom, causing us to have to go buy those California strawberries. The best advice I can give is to peek under the mulch to see if the plants are starting to grow. If not I would leave the mulch alone for another week and check it again. Once I see some new growth then I would loosen the mulch but keep it on the plants. When the new growth shows some yellowing in the young leaves, then rake the mulch off the plants to let them get some sunlight. Keep the mulch next to the plants in case a cold freeze is predicted so that you can cover them again till after the cold snap has passed.

In the case of roses we want to uncover them so that mold doesn't develop on the leaves and stems. Keeping the mulch around the base of the plant will keep the soil cool slowing any new growth. Once we get into May we can remove the mulch and let the soil warm up the roots of the plant.

Over the next couple of weeks I like to lay down some mulch around my raspberries and asparagus for summer weed control. I wait till the frost is out of the ground and it has dried up in the area and then lay about four -five inches of hay or straw around the bed. This has worked very well in controlling any grass in the rows, usually till late summer.

Now would also be a good time to remove old stalks in the asparagus patch and clean up any weeds that may have grown from last year. Put down some fertilizer and mulch and then wait for those green spikes to appear and enjoy that first cream of asparagus soup of the year.