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April’s longer daylight hours a boon for plants

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Wow! It’s the middle of April and we have light.
We already have better than 12 hours and by the time May 1 rolls around, we’ll be pushing 14 hours of daylight.  I love it. It gives me more time to do stuff outside, and believe me, I always need more time.
April is a busy time for our plants.  Perennials have popped and could use a dose of fertilizer. Spring fertilizing helps plants get off to a strong start for the season. Lord knows the weather over the next six months could be just as strange as the last six. Healthy plants can get through just about anything.
Depending on your landscape choices, you may have a long list of to do’s outside during the rest of the month.  Roses benefit from a cocktail of coffee or coffee grounds, ground up banana peels, bone meal or rock phosphate and a tablespoon of Epsom salts.  Two weeks after blooming has started, give them another dose.
Spring blooming plants, though faded and past need fertilized now, too. Don’t cut the green leaves yet though.  The leaves help them store up energy for next year.  Spring blooming shrubs can be pruned now. Remember, only cut one third of the length of the branch off.
Trees need fertilizer now, too.  If you’re planting new trees this year there are a couple of things that you can do to really help them start strong.  Like it or not, a hole that is twice as big as you need is really helpful to the plant.  Roots are everything. The bigger hole helps them get established.
Another thing to keep in mind, with our lovely clay soil, is to mix the good with the bad.  Since the clay soil is so dense, some may think that by filling the hole with potting soil or some other bag soil would be a good thing.  Not!
If the soil surrounding the roots is really fine, it makes the roots weak. Then, by the time they reach the clay they have a really tough time breaking through it.  Mix your fill-in soil.  Use the dirt you dug out of the hole and mix it with the bag stuff before filling in the hole.
A general rule of thumb is to wait on fertilizing anything you just put in the ground. Let the new plant get used to being there for about two weeks.  Plants go through a little period of being in shock when newly planted, so it’s best to wait a bit before fertilizing.
Melon lovers can start their seeds indoors right now to make sure they have watermelon for the Fourth of July.  Presoak them first. Find some shredded paper or newspaper and put a handful or two in a Ziplock bag.
Wet the paper and then drop in the seeds and shake so the seeds are mixed in with the paper.  You’re just softening up the outer shell of the seed to speed up sprouting.
After a couple of days you can plant the soft seed in trays and keep them indoors to grow.  When the plant is 3-4 inches tall you can take them outside to get use to the weather.  After a week of the outdoors, plant them in the garden.
Now, I’ve got to go water my tomatoes.  
My indoor grow room is about to get really crowded as the transplanting begins. I won’t be planting them in the garden until Mother’s Day or later.  
I’m not about to let this freaky weather take my babies.  Happy growing!

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.