March was such a pleasure this year. We were all outside enjoying the sun, and the unexpected warmth. The sub-freezing nights during the first week in April were a bit of a challenge, but I’m still hopeful that we will have a good year for the Hydrangea macrophylla for the first time in 3 years. Got my fingers crossed. The plants are growing so fast right now that it seems as though they are growing right before your eyes. I love watching my garden come back to life. The last thing I need is a new plant, but at a weak moment late in February, I stumbled across some Itoh variety Peonies, and just couldn’t resist the temptation. They are in a family of cultivars sturdier than the herbaceous Paeonia lactiflora / Garden Peony, but not woody like the Paeonia suffruticosa / Tree Peony. I look forward to their arrival in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I have plenty to keep me busy.
DO…spread Holly-Tone within the drip edge of all your BROADLEAF EVERGREENS, and other acid-loving plants.
DO…spread Plant-Tone within the drip edge of all other plants, but I usually limit myself to a liberal broadcast among all of my PERENNIALS.
DO YOU HAVE HOSTAS OR OTHER LARGE LEAF PLANTS?….If you have ever noticed holes in the leaves, this is usually caused by slugs. Ortho makes a product called Slug Bait which you broadcast over the area, and is effective for several weeks before reapplication is necessary. Another good option is to create a continuous ring around the base of the plant with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. This fine white or off-white powder is the ground fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It causes the slugs to dehydrate and die. I generally find that one application in the beginning of the season is all that is needed. After 1 or 2 rains, the white ring is no longer visible. Be sure to use gloves when handling this substance.
HELLEBORUS…DO remove foliage from last season. This winter it took a beating, and the foliage is already starting to turn.
SPRING CLEANUP….A thorough spring cleanup now will greatly reduce the maintenance all summer long. Freshen up the bed edge, rake, weed and apply 3 inches of SHREDDED BARK MULCH. Resist the urge to buy the dye-colored mulch. You want the mulch to decompose over time, and the additional chemicals can’t be good for the plants or the environment.
SPRING FLOWERING BULBS….When the flowers start to fade, remove the flower stem close to the base (a form of DEAD HEADING). This prevents the plant from spending a lot of energy on the development of seeds. DO allow the foliage to remain for as long as you can stand it so that the plant will be able to manufacture food that will be sent down to feed the bulb for next year. Some people have hundreds or thousands of daffodils and other bulbs which makes it impractical to dead head. In this case, it’s best just to leave the entire plant alone until the foliage starts to turn yellow, and then cut it back to the ground.
WANT TO DEVELOP A MOSS PATH? I love the feel of moss underfoot, especially in a woodland setting. I love when it builds soft mounds over time. Unfortunately, weeds still manage to grow in the moss, and if you pull the weeds, large clumps of moss usually come out with them. You no longer need to fret. Last year, I learned that you can spray the weeds with Round-Up, and the moss won’t feel a thing. Apparently, moss does not have a vascular system. Needless to say, I was still a bit skeptical. So last year, I gave it a try, and it worked!
Moss is very easy to cultivate. Scrape off some moss where you don’t want it, and lay it on the ground where you do. Sprinkle with a bit of water, and it will come back to life the same day. If you don’t have any to spare, Moss Acres will be happy to sell you moss in a variety of forms. The dormant (dried out) clumps of moss in a bag will green up in no time after a bit of water.
POISON IVY…The foliage has yet to appear, but you can get the rash from the root system or vine stems. It’s easy to identify the large, hair vine climbing up a tree. It’s much harder to identify the small fibrous root system lying dormant just beneath the surface. A good rule of thumb is to assume that some of the roots encountered are Poison Ivy, and act accordingly.
PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE WHEN WORKING WITH POISON IVY
Wear gloves, long-sleeve shirt, long pants, socks and shoes. Be careful not to wipe or scratch any areas of exposed skin while working. Tuck in your shirt so you won’t touch your abdomen by mistake. After working, place all clothes immediately in the washing machine, and take a shower. This will greatly reduce the impact of any contact. The oils will remain active on clothing for several hours at least. I rub my work gloves and work boots with dirt before entering the house to remove the oil.
If you think you may become exposed to Poison Ivy, but are unable to cover up, do apply Ivy Block to all exposed areas at least 5 minutes prior to exposure. Never apply to the face. This is a milky, topical liquid that forms a protective layer on the skin. You should be able to order this through your local pharmacy. There are a few other products currently on the market such as TechNu and Zanfel, for use after contact. I tried Zanfel last year, and found it to be very effective. My neighbor swears by Dawn dishwashing liquid.
DOES THE RASH SPREAD?
No. Once the rash appears on your body, the rash will not spread. The delayed exposure of other areas of the skin, usually due to contact with oils remaining on clothing will give the impression that the rash is spreading. Once the rash appears, my treatment of preference is the liberal application of Caladryl Lotion several times a day. This seems to temporarily relieve the itch and also promotes drying of the rash.