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April's showers a boon to gardeners.

Byline: Paul Rogers

COLUMN: ROOTS OF WISDOM

A long-range weather forecast for the month of April predicts that the month will be warmer and drier or cooler and wetter than normal, depending on whom you listen to. We expect plentiful moisture during this month, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Rain events, foggy nights and drizzly days allow for almost carefree planting and transplanting as well as easy opening of leaf buds. Does wet April weather have a down side? Naturally.

Moist, cloudy weather causes foliage to remain soft and succulent for an extended period, thus presenting almost ideal conditions for feeding by leaf-eating insects and infection by fungal spores. If the weather is excessively wet and cool, pollination by bees may be reduced, resulting in a reduction in fruit crops. The other side of the coin is that soft rains can prolong the flowering display of spring bulbs, trees and shrubs, thus enhancing and extending our enjoyment of the flowers of spring.

An additional benefit of moist, cloudy weather is that the window of time for planting bare-root (BR) trees and shrubs lengthens by days or even a week or more. Plants such as blueberry bushes, privet hedges and even trees that were dug in the autumn and carefully stored over winter with their root systems protected from drying, are good buys now. Free from expensive soil around their roots, the plants are lighter, less costly to ship and offered from the time the ground thaws to the time the plants break bud.

Usually only deciduous plants are available BR. Evergreens, because they are actively transpiring moisture year-round, are usually offered as balled and burlapped (B&B) or containerized plants (CP). However, BR plants have been shown to establish themselves more quickly and completely than either B&B or CP plants, providing they are properly installed in the ground before their foliage emerges.

April weather is considered the very best time of the entire year to plant thin-barked trees such as beeches, birches, red maples and magnolias. April is also ideal for planting oaks, nut and fruit trees. Actually all trees, shrubs, hedges and vines can and should be planted this month. By planting before their leaves emerge, it allows plants to focus on root establishment before stored plant energy is given over to foliage development.

The longer that any plant has to become integrated into its new site before the heat of the summer causes stress, the surer it will be that the plants will prosper. Understand, plants can be planted at any time that the soil is not frozen, but for a whole raft of reasons, April planting is easier on both you and the plants.

Vegetable gardening this year? Waste no time in preparing the garden if you have not already done so. Peas and onions can be sown or set anytime that the ground and you are ready. Peas like cool temperatures, and onions need time to grow foliage before the middle of June when they refocus on developing the onion itself.

Soon it will be time to plant the lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Swiss chard and other cool crops. By scheduling your yard work and planting activities, everything (well, almost everything) will get accomplished with minimum strain. Happy planting!
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 5, 2009
Words:547
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