tofino gardening in april

Tofino gardening in April

by Trina Mattson, Tofino


Just as we were all getting excited about gardening, winter finally decided to pay us a visit. Well, what can you do but go with the flow, or in our case the torrential down pour and major winds.

April won't be a total loss to gardeners though, the weather will warm up, and there are a few things to be done in the rain. It's definitely time to be fertilising your vines, as well as pruning them to promote new healthy growth. It's easier to get at any dead wood that may be present before the leaves come out fully, and less mess to clean up as well. Generally at this time of year a shot of fertiliser for all your plants would be of benefit for them. Don't forget about your water plants, one pond fertiliser tab per gallon of soil. As the water temperature in your pond warms up, and the fish become more active, this tends to lead to "green water". Don't be overly concerned and do a whole pond water change, your bio filter will start to seed up and if you follow the rules of a balanced pond, the water will clear up. This is a good time of year to begin lifting and separating your aquatic plants, especially the overcrowded marginals.

Lilacs started putting on flower buds about mid March, so they should be blooming fairly soon. Don't be disheartened if your lilac hasn't bloomed since you've planted it, they can and will take several years to bloom after being transplanted. As long as the general health of the plant is good, patience is the key, keep fertilising it, talk to it nicely and if nothing happens after about 12 years, threaten to cut it down—it worked with mine.

I had a chat with Ken Gibson, the local rhododendron guru about rhodos and one of the diseases that can affect them this time of year is downey mildew. It affects the terminal growth bud and as Ken puts it, you can either give up now and turf it out, or spray it with a fungicide once a month from April to August. If it's in a really windy location, try moving it to a more sheltered spot, but not at the base of stucco, brick or concrete, as the lime runoff isn't good for the plant. Remember—never plant your rhodos, just place them. Don't dig a hole, make a small indent in the ground, maybe 6 inches, put in a couple inches of cedar sawdust, place the rhodo on top, and mound the soil up around the plant. Do remember to stake it for stability. Most problems with rhodos stem from too wet a soil, although sun and wind can also play a factor in the overall health.

If you are planting seed potatoes in April, try early varieties such as Norland and Warba, but only if you haven't limed the spot this year. For bulbs, how about growing Gladiolas, Callas and Crocosmia. Early flowering perennials in the garden need a bit of first aid, clean and trim around the base, loosen up the soil and the plant stem and give it a slow release fertiliser. Strawberry plants and other fruiting plants should get a manure mulch around the base of those plants, and while you're at that, the oldest of the strawberry plants may need to be retired and last years suckers moved into their spots. Rotating your plants like this should keep your strawberry bed producing vigorously for years.

Roses at this point are ready to be pruned, and if you are not sure on how to go about it, come into the garden centre, and I'll try to make it as painless and thornless as possible.

One of the questions people ask in the garden centre: "How do I eliminate the salmon berry and blackberry from my yard?" We've found that perseverance and a really sharp pair of cutters work or a bush mower, just keep it cut down, never let it get more than a couple of inches high, which means cutting it down about every two or three weeks works. It needs the light to grow, take the sun out of the equation and voila, bye bye plant. This takes about a season or two to work, but it is the least backbreaking method I know, and what a way to work out your frustrations.

Trina Mattson runs the OCN Garden Center in Tofino.

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