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The Flying Butterfly - Hello and Welcome!
April 01, 2012

Welcome to the Flying Butterfly!

Let's start by giving a shout out to new butterfly gardener Vivian. Butterfly gardening will be new hobby for her and she is looking forward to all the fun. Welcome Vivian - We're glad to have you 'puddling' with us!
Let us know how things are growing at:
Your gardening stories and pic's

It's April and this year the snow started melting in most areas earlier than usual. With melting snow and warmer temperatures, plants are budding which brings a time window to get things done if you already have a garden. Let's get started and Grow for It!

As stated in the March newsletter, because of the warmer weather pruning got started earlier this year. With buds on bushes and trees beginning to show, there's still time to prune but get it done quickly. I'd recommend no later then the second week of April, about 4/11. Boxwoods, Burning Bush, Junipers and Hollies are amongst shrubs that should be pruned in this manner. Butterfly Bushes definitely fall under this category as well, except for one - Buddleia alternifolia.

If you have any shrubs that may show flowers early, prune them after the blooms have died. Any shrubs with older wood - don't cut it back entirely. Remove about 1/3 of the oldest wood branches every spring. This allows more flowers to bloom (because the sunlight will reach them better) while allowing shrub to retain a good shape. With Buddleia alternifolia wait until mid-summer to cut back spent flowers.

If you are new to gardening the purpose for pruning, or coppicing, helps the long term health of the shrub and shaping it. It looks severe but the bush will grow back stronger. Not pruning will make the shrub look untidy, top-heavy and leaves the bush more vulnerable while growing up. Cutting back also prevents shrubs from getting crowded.

Pruning is important the first few years for growth of new shrubs. After 3-4 years focus your efforts on pruning the new, young shrubs that are planted. More information at: Butterfly Bushes

Butterflies also seek fruit nectar as one of their food sources. If you have any fruit trees this is an important time of year for them. Apply Sulfur to control any diseases of the fruit. Sulfur is a fungicide that will stop these diseases before they get started.

Also place holes that circle around the fruit tree to promote rich soil for more optimal fruit. Place holes about 2' apart and make each hole about 8-12" deep then fill with fertilizer.

This time of year also brings excessive moisture. Clean out the garden. Get rid of all of the leaves and get a jump start on new weeds that can easily be pulled. All of that moisture needs to be drained out. Cleaning your garden also help with fungus not growing and gets much needed air circulating in the garden.

If you are living in an area that saw an exceptional amount of water last year I would recommend still applying a fungicide when cleaning your garden out. Other tips to help keep gardens well drained are to:

  • Create furrows for the water to drain out more easily.

  • Water the ground to reach the roots and stems (rather than over the leaves on top) in the mornings.

  • Don't water plants at night. This can help to promote more unwanted fungus.

I have learned that mixing a water and bleach combination saves money and works well to replace fungicide. Use 85/15 ratio water to bleach. Too much bleach can kill the plant so be conservative while learning what works for you.

Many times excessive water can bring moss in flower beds and gardens because of the lack of drainage and lots of shade. You can use a moss control agent. If so, make sure your read the Labels. Some of these chemicals can stain stones in walkways, etc.. There are some products that won't stain. Depending on the location of moss, I have opted for other methods of control. If you would like to learn more ways to save money go to the Homemade Weed Killer page.

I also mentioned in the March newsletter that this is the time of year to use preemergent herbicides. Weeds have seeds that have been lying dormant and this may be the year one of those seeds wins the lottery and starts to germinate.

Preemergent's will kill the weed seed at germination. Keep in mind... this also means that flower seeds will be killed to. Snow will have no effect on applying a preemergent. Chemicals are activated by temperature and then suffocate seeds, controlling the area for about 8 weeks.

After your garden is clean, apply a preemergent again and wait approximately two weeks before planting. To understand preemergent herbicides click here: Preemergent herbicide.

A real headache this time of year for lawn and garden is Crab Grass. Preemergents should also be applied for this purpose to. After applying preemergents it is recommended to place fertilizer in treated area. Other weeds that sprout by seed include Chickweed, Ground Ivy and Mallow.

It is also the time of year to check soil pH. If you are new to gardening this is a must do that will save so much money in the long run. The Soil Testing Methods explains more about this. How to Test Your Soil gives you DIY ideas of testing.

If you are planning on starting a new area for a flower bed or garden you will be tilling the soil. Tilling soil is important but is best done in fall, if you can wait. At this time of year the ground is wet, compacted and there is no air circulating because the water can't go anywhere. If tilling the soil now, it's likely to become more compacted and it's like working with bricks rather than crumbling soil.

Overtime walking on soil, mowers, etc.. compacts the soil close together without aeration and causes vulnerability where weeds will invade. It is important to correct soil that becomes compacted. Correcting soil creates a more healthy Food Web where plants grow and weeds don't.

Regardless of the time of year you choose to start digging and tilling keep this simple tip in mind - If gardening soil is 'light' add an organic 'dark' material. Do this annually, or gradually, and in time your soil will darken and become more healthy.

Other Tidbits:
  • If you started plants inside the house, this is a good time to introduce them to the outside before transplanting. Keep plants out on the porch getting them used to the outdoor environment and bring inside at night. Wait until you feel certain that all frosts have passed before planting outside.

  • If you still get any frosts, remember not to cover the plants that have started to sprout with plastic. This will burn them. Use old newspapers, brown paper rolls or bags, weed control fabric, etc.. Usually new buds will be fine if freezing temperatures are above
    25 degrees. If temperatures get into the teens this is when you really need to cover new growth on plants.

    Understanding covering plants will come in time. I usually focus on those that I feel are highly vulnerable and cover them regardless of how low temperatures may fall.

  • New gardeners may encounter 'Mulch Heave' and not know what it is. Click to find out more about both mulch heave and Garden Mulch.

Happy Butterfly Gardening!

Elizabeth @ Easy Butterfly Garden

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