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April in the Garden with Second Bloom

by Marsha Ackerman

I heard AJ Wallace, a social justice organizer, speak on the "Divinity of Compost" this month and was quite moved by it. His talk centered around decomposing non-beneficial structures and barriers in order to build healthier communities. Paramount to this process is the concept of reciprocity in relationship. You don't need to have scientific understanding of the composting process to see how the old, rotten, and dead transform themselves into the very food we need to grow new living organisms. As my hellebore come into full bloom and the spring bulbs prepare to make their debut, I am so grateful to get my hands back in the soil and feel the renewal of life in tangible form. The nurturing I give to the garden by laying compost at the feet of each plant is simultaneously given back to my soul in such abundance that it makes this process feel like a spiritual experience. It's still a bit chilly and grey here in Connecticut, but this promise of renewal is enough to get me outside prepping for the warmer days to come...

What to do this month in the garden:

  • The most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your garden is to FEED IT! There is a lot to know about fertilizers. Here is link to a good basics lesson:

I like to use a combination of an organic soil enhancer (like Soilution made by SweetPeet) and homemade compost spread at the base of all of my plants.

  • Finish pruning roses early in the month. There are many videos online on how to do this, here's a good one:

  • Once they have finished their bloom, pick off any developing seedheads on daffodils and other spring bulbs, but leave the foliage to die back naturally. Removing the seedheads allows the plant to put all of its energy into growth for next year rather than maturing its seeds. (If you've purchased forced bulbs as temporary houseplants, don't get rid of them when they've faded! Plant faded bulbs out in the garden for blooms next year.)

  • Plant dahlia tubers in pots or trays to encourage shoots to develop. You can use some of the shoots as cuttings, or just get a head start on this year's bloom.

  • Put peony supports in place now so that the new growth can come through them before the leaves make it cumbersome.

  • Divide congested clumps of herbaceous perennials and grasses to make vigorous new plants for free.

  • Transplant deciduous shrubs growing in the wrong place, while they are still dormant.

  • Prune winter-blooming shrubs such as mahonia, winter jasmine and heathers, once they've finished flowering.

  • Start hoeing vegetable beds as soon as the weather starts to warm up, as weeds will germinate quickly.

  • Start some French marigold seeds inside to plant next to your tomatoes this year. Their strong scent deters whitefly. Thyme, a strongly scented herb, is a good companion plant for roses, as its strong scent deters blackfly.

Celia is trying very hard to be patient while waiting for gardening weather.


Something to read:

Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein

Of all of the flowers that I grow, I find dahlias to be the most rewarding and exciting. They aren't nearly as complicated as many fear that they are, and this book speaks to everyone from the beginning grower to those who've been doing it for years. The pictures alone can carry us through these last cold snaps and keep us dreaming of the bounty yet to come. Give it a read and buy yourself a few tubers to try this year!


Something to listen to:

Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland

Whether you think you know this piece or probably do. At least you will be familiar with 'Simple Gifts' when you hear it. It is from the 1944 ballet of the same name and has been used in a million movies, ads, etc. It is an American favorite for good reason.


With love, Celia & Marsha

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