National Gardening Month

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     April is National Gardening Month.  While we do not hit our frost-free date until May, in April we get serious about getting ready for the gardening year.  April is also the month for Earth Day and Arbor Day.
     After a windy March, the first order of business in April is clean-up of the garden.  The strong winds of last week caused some tree and shrub damage in many areas.  Using a sharp saw or pruners, the damaged areas should be removed from woody plants.  Always cut back to a natural joint.  You will notice that most plants have a swollen area at the point where a limb emerges.  That swollen area contains some hormones that will help the plant to scab over and heal.  Otherwise, the exposed softwood may be invaded by insects or pathogens.  The warmer weather of April also means that the various critters that have over-wintered in the debris of last year’s plants have emerged.  That debris may now be cleared.  If it is free of disease and seeds, it may be shredded and added to the compost pile.  Otherwise, the debris may be burned, if ordinances allow burning and the weather conditions are acceptable, or it may be taken off site for disposal.
     If you have ordered plants, bulbs or seeds from mail-order nurseries, you will likely start receiving packages in April.  Read the instructions that come with most such packages.  If the instructions say to plant after the danger of frost has passed, it is better to wait until May 10 to plant.  However, many plants are tolerant of some light frost, and should be planted as quickly as possible.  If a hard freeze should be in the forecast, you may need to provide some protection at that time.
     Earth Day is observed on April 22.  The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “Invest in Our Planet”.  One need not make Earth Day a political debate.  The earth is home for all of us, and caring for the planet should be a concern for all.  I admit that there are differences of opinion on many matters, but let’s all do our part to care for the earth.  Clean up trash along the roads and in our parks.  Do what you can to save energy (and money) in your home.  Get out and enjoy nature.  Make it a priority to learn some new things about the world around you.  Join an effort to eradicate invasive plants in a park, forest or in your own yard.
     The other big ecological event in April is Arbor Day.  Indiana observes Arbor Day on Friday, April 28.  This is because it is prime time for planting trees in our state.  Other states may observe Arbor Day at different times because of climate differences.  Arbor Day is also observed in many other countries at the appropriate time for tree planting in those countries.  Trees provide us with a lot of benefits.  Of course, wood products come from trees, and companies that produce wood products are usually careful to plant trees to replace the ones they harvest.  Trees also make a lot of the oxygen we and the animal kingdom need to breathe.  Trees provide shade and windbreaks that can save you a lot of money on the heating and cooling bills.  Plan now to plant a tree for Arbor Day.  I often plant trees as memorials or to honor important events.  Many families plant a tree when a baby is born.  Make your tree planting a family or group affair.  Whether you choose a fruit tree, a shade tree, a flowering tree or simply a tree to replace a harvested tree or a burned forest, the act of planting a tree is a gift for the future.  I hope to be able to plant a tree bosquet (Yes, that is spelled correctly.)  We will have more about that in a future column.
     Celebrate National Garden Month is your garden, or by visiting a public garden, or by stopping by and visiting a friend or relative.  If you need a garden to visit, stop in at Sandhill Gardens.  I might even let you do some gardening to celebrate.



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