The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

Here’s hoping April’s Swan Song is a few warm showers – There are only four days remaining in the month of April and what more beautiful way to say goodbye to this wonderful months is to see several April showers to leave its signature. There’s nothing like the scent of a warm April shower to linger with us even as we travel into the month of May!

Paving the way to a bluebird summer – Bluebirds are definitely making a comeback in Piedmont North Carolina and we believe many gardens have rolled out the red carpet for them by providing bird houses and also placing them in strategic locations away from houses and people. Bluebirds are very private and not like robins or cardinals that will fly right up near you on the lawn. Bluebirds like to keep their distance. Even though they are not as social as many other birds their bright colors make them worthy of providing houses for. They are insect eaters so if you provide habitat for them, you will see them often as they search for food and nesting materials for their houses. You can purchase bluebird houses at most hardware’s, home-improvement stores and garden shops or you can build several of your own.

Now is the time to start some Four O’clock for plenty of summer color – As the month of April nears its in, you can sow a packet or to a four o’clocks to provide a summer of green lush foliage as well as blooms of colorful flowers. The seeds of the four o’clocks are hard and shaped like small barrels. Even though soil in late April early May is cool, the seeds are hard and tough and the cool soil temperatures will not harm or slow them down. You can purchase them in packets of assorted colors at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart and at seed shops for around two dollars per packet.

Keeping Hummingbird feeders filled – Hummingbirds have been around for the last several weeks and as May arrives next week, we can expect even more hummers on the scene. Make them welcome on your porch, deck, or lawn by keeping feeders filled with nectar. You can purchase nectar in pre-mix bottles in quarts or half gallon sizes or in packets that you mix with water. You can now buy the red or clear variety. You can also make your own nectar with a 50-50 mixture of sugar and water and a few drops of liquid red food coloring. Change the nectar every three or four days to prevent fermentation or spoilage. This also prevents attracting ants and bees to the feeders.

Still plenty of time for perennials – As April is coming to its last few days, perennials are still available at many shops, nurseries, and hardwares and these mid spring days are opportune for storing perennials for year-round foliage and flowers. You can choose from many varieties that include phlox, thrift, bugleweed, hen and chicks, dianthus, candy tuft, columbine, coral bells, sweet William, dusty miller, veronica, forget me knots, and American bee balm. We love perennials because they are year-round producers and they can be transplanted to other parts as they propagate and can be shared with other gardeners.

The birds of spring are on a search and build mission – As spring comes into full force, so are the birds of spring as they scrounge around the lawn and garden plot looking for twigs, straw and small sticks to build nests for their young. We saw a robin last week with some small scraps of paper and in its beak. We guess that they can also weave that into a nest!

Raising a row or bed of beats in the spring garden plot – Most of gardeners don’t fool with beets because they are not one of America’s favorite vegetables and they also require a long growing season because they are a root crop. To assure a harvest, beets need to be sown now and in well-prepared soil. Beet seeds are like the four o’clock flower seed mentioned earlier in this column — they are hard as a brick. Many gardeners soak the seed overnight before planting. When sowing a row of beets, prepare the furrow about six or seven inches deep, add two or 3 inches of Pete Moss to the furrow, then add the beet seed three inches apart. Use a water wand or spray mode or a water can with a sprinkler detached and give the seed a heavy drink of water. Apply another layer of Pete Moss on the seed and cover seed with soil. Tamp down the soil with a hoe blade. Allow them about two weeks to sprout. As they grow, continue the “hill” soil up on the sides of the fruit. Be patient, beets require a very long growing season!

Enjoying the “Full Pink Moon” of April – On Sunday night, April 29, 2018, a full pink moon will rise just after sunset and will look very pinkish as it rises on the eastern horizon and shines on a tree line filled with fresh new leaves. Ride out on a Carolina country Road and enjoy this beautiful site.

Dealing with April’s dusty pollen – The eyes and nose have been dealing with yellow pollen dust all month long. It’s time to blow it out of the carport, wash it from vehicles, clean it from inside vehicle doors, windshield wiper blades, porches and decks. Keep hoses ready as April ends.

Rabbits can be pests in spring garden plot – Elmer Fudd in the cartoon always called them “Wabbits”, but we call them pests of the garden. Elmer always used a shotgun, but we do not wish to go to that extreme! There’s a simple way to control the rabbit population in the garden plot by just keeping them from the garden, and here is a clean method of keeping them out. Use a kitchen paring knife to shave several bars of highly sensitive and fragrant soap like “Lifebooy” or “Dial”. Place the shavings in a mesh bags (like onions come in), tie the top of bags together and place them in areas around the garden plot. Save those mesh onion bags because when green beans bloom, you can place mothballs in them to control the pesky groundhog population. We hate those nasty critters!

Ray Baird