VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

April Growing Tips

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

Welcome to Milner Gardens' 2022 Monthly Growing Tips: Some short-cuts and tricks to help make lighter work of your gardening chores.

April Growing Tips

This month we begin planting and weeding in earnest. But sometimes it pays to be a little lazy.
   1. Don’t cut off or tie up the greenery when bulbs have finished flowering. They need it to replenish their storage organs before they go dormant.
   2. Leave the short dry stalks on perennials from last autumn’s pruning. Wait until the new growth is well above the old stalks which will be thoroughly withered and easy to snip out with pruners. Many beneficial bugs who overwintered or laid eggs in the hollow stalks are still hatching out, too. They need a couple more weeks.
   3. When overwintered chard begins to bolt, snip out the new stalks as they sprout and plant will produce more succulent leaves. Chard can be fooled into becoming perennial for up to 3 years. This is a useful for rainbow chard used as colourful foliage along pathways; it saves planting anew each spring.

Less Work When Refurbishing the Lawn

Save raked-out moss and use it to line hanging baskets or summer planters. It helps control sudden moisture loss and insulates against temperature extremes. It also recycles some garden waste, is more eco-friendly than peat moss, and less expensive than coir fibre mats.

On the Patio

If you are repurposing used containers, make sure you know what they held before. Not sure? Seal them inside. Old fashioned ‘Milk Paint’ is inexpensive, safe, and effective on all surfaces. Tung or hemp oil will seal, yet keep breathable, terra cotta pots. Check that plastic pot bottoms are labeled #5, avoiding #1, 3, 6 and 7. Many acrylic paints for plastic and metal are labeled as ‘Food Safe.’ ‘Plant Safe’ isn’t enough, for it can still contain toxic chemicals that may leach into the surroundings. Remember your magnifying glass to read labels!

In the Veggie Patch

1. Leave overwintered kale, which is putting up its flower stalks now. The small leaves are tender and tasty. In flower, it is a graceful 1 ½ m. plant. The hummingbirds mob it for the peppery-tasting yellow blossoms, which are a delightful addition to salads. By June kale sets copious seed. Scatter them throughout the veggie garden. The easily identified starts make good baby salad greens, the few plants you plan to grow out for winter are easily amended with compost and rock phosphate. The remaining seed is great for next winter’s indoor sprouts.
2. Protect lettuce against wire worms by pushing thick slices of potato (3 around a plant, or every 2-3 inches along a row) about 2 inches / 5cm into the dirt so you can just see the top of the piece. Wire worms love potato more than lettuce. If you do see a leaf or two collapsed on an otherwise healthy plant, carefully lift out the root ball and pull aside some dirt to expose the worm sticking out of the stalk below the limp leaf. Pull it out and replant the lettuce. About 60% will regrow and not succumb to fungal infestations. Check each morning until the lettuces are strong and the central core thick as your thumb.

Planting Out
Pill bugs are composters and love woody stuff. Discourage them with a small patch of bare dirt around young plant stalks, attracting them to low mounds of woody mulch along the sides of the rows. For single food plants and perennial starts, clear mulch to bare dirt, then slide a collar of a bottomless yogurt container over each plant so the bare area is inside, and mounded bark mulch outside. Most pill bugs and snails will stay in the mulch.

-- When the chickadees begin nesting, plant peas,
-- When the first dandelions bloom, plant potatoes,
-- When the lilacs show their first green leaflets, plant beets, cole crops, lettuce and spinach.

Green Groaners

Trees are very tech savvy, always the first to log in, but sphagnum is a luddite -- it still uses moss code.

Eve, overheard in the Garden of Eden:

“It wasn’t the apple, it was the mushrooms growing underneath the tree. That is when the snake began talking.”