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041016-dec-lif-hawbaker

Pick up and dispose of sweet gum ball seeds. Some people place them around hostas to discourage slugs from eating their leaves.

Even though spring officially began in March, the month of April normally starts the gardening season for us here in Central Illinois.

Soil temperatures continue to rise, even though we may still have light frosts until about April 20 (on average). If soil conditions permit, you can plant peas, radish, onion sets, asparagus crowns, rhubarb plants, spinach, turnips, carrots, beets and other frost-tolerant vegetables. However you need to wait until the last week of April to the first week of May to plant tender vegetables such as snap beans, sweet corn and tomato plants.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature continues to brighten our landscape with blooming flowers on red bud trees, flowering crab trees, dogwoods, tulips and more. The Saucer Magnolia trees were really pretty this year, but most are done blooming by now. Most forsythia bushes have finished blooming which means it is a good time to prune them.

Now is the time to:

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  • If you have not yet applied crabgrass prevention products to your lawn, it is time to make that application. Crabgrass normally germinates when the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees. One hint to remind you is when you notice the flowers of forsythia falling off, it is time. Remember, once you apply one of these products; do not plan to do any reseeding of bluegrass because it will not germinate.
  • Divide perennials that show signs of reduced flowering, loss of vigor or centers dying out.
  • When dividing chrysanthemums, dig the entire clump, discard the center and divide remaining clumps. Plant divisions 12 inches apart.
  • Wait until late summer to early fall to divide poppy, iris and peony.
  • Apply fertilizer to rose bushes after you prune them.
  • Pick up and dispose of sweet gum ball seeds. Some people place them around hostas to discourage slugs from eating their leaves. If you can find other uses of these seeds, you could become rich and famous.
  • Reseed bare spots in your lawn. Gently cover seed and keep moist for at least three weeks until it germinates and grows. Shady areas are more difficult to reseed. Use grass seed specifically designed for shade. Most contain creeping red fescue and perennial ryegrass mixtures.
  • Visit garden centers or nurseries and check out their trees, shrubs and fruit trees. All may be planted this time of year. Shrubs and trees best planted in the spring include: Dogwood, Rose of Sharon, black gum, redbud, magnolia, tulip poplar, birch, ginkgo, hawthorn, hickory and most oak.
  • Fertilize fruit trees and brambles.
  • Plant strawberries and pinch off first year flowers to develop strong roots.
  • Scatter Shirley poppy seeds in flower borders. Do not cover seeds. These plants grow rapidly and provide colorful flowers in early summer.
  • Cover ends of house gutters to keep starlings from making nests in them.
  • This is nest making time for many birds. One of my friends always has some swallows make a nest on the sill right above their front door. They are messy, but they don’t have the heart to remove the nests.

Bird nest of the week

My wife had about 10 letters to be picked up by the mailman, so she propped open the mailbox door with the letters. I checked the mailbox a few hours later, the letters were gone, but the mailbox was full of nesting material. From now on, we must remember to keep the door closed.

If you have any strange places where birds nest, send me a note or photo to jmatherly@herald-review.com.

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Stuart Hawbaker can be reached at jmatherly@herald-review.com.

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