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April 8, 2014

Gardening tips: Don’t get impatient with April

The Lenten rose or Helleborus blooms early. Photo by Maryanne Sparks.
By Maryanne Sparks
Fauquier County Master Gardener

Gardening during the month of April gets tricky. Mother Nature can fool even the most seasoned of gardeners.

If the soil is wet and clumps when you squeeze a small handful, it is too wet to work. Clumps of soil are probable after this year’s late snows and March rains.

Don’t be fooled by blooming daffodils. Let your soil dry before tilling, spading or otherwise working it. Working sticky or clumping soil will only lead to compaction, and that is not good.

If you did not get your soil tested last fall, send a soil sample to Virginia Tech for analysis before adding improvements to your garden. Virginia is one of the few states that will do a soil analysis for a nominal fee. And, a soil analysis will provide the appropriate amount of enhancement needed for your particular site: No more, no less, no wasted money, no excess run-off of excess nutrients.

Soil test kits and instructions are available at the Fauquier County Extension Office at 24 Pelham St. in Warrenton and at some local garden centers.

While winter mulch and last-year’s growth will protect plants from temperature fluctuations, gradually pull the mulch aside as plants show new signs of growth. Yes, mulch is a good thing, but not when critters use it as cover when munching on new plant growth!

If you have spare time, remember to get your gardening tools organized, cleaned, sharpened and ready for the season ahead. Empty old soil and scrub pots, purchase potting soil and decide on this year’s annual displays. Visit spring garden festivals for inspiration. And get motivated by bringing some of those early blooming daffodils inside for display!

For more information, contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension Horticulture Help Desk at 24 Pelham St., Warrenton, Va. 20186; telephone: 540-341-7950, extension 1; email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); Master Gardeners website:

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