After 31 years of working for the North Dakota State University Extension Service, I have decided to retire as of March 30 and this will be my last news column.
I first was stationed in Slope County and moved to Grant County in 1985. In September of 1993 my family and I came to Pierce County.
Over those years agriculture has changed, as it has always done. I have seen some times where economic conditions have been pretty tough for some in agriculture and times where things have been good, There have been droughts and periods of too much moisture and through it all, agriculture has continued to change as it always will.
It has been a great experience to see these changes and work to try to make people’s lives better. Along the way I have had the opportunity to work with some really great people. I would like to thank the clientele of the NDSU Extension office for this opportunity.
Gardening tips for April
For apple production, you need two different apple varieties, not just two different trees. For example, planting two ‘Honeycrisp’ trees won’t work. You need a ‘Honeycrisp’ and a different variety. Bees will also fertilize apple blooms with pollen from nearby crabapple trees. The trees should be within 50 feet of one another.
This is the best time to prune apples (crabapples, too). Pruning will increase the sunlight and air movement within the tree’s canopy. This will reduce disease problems and develop brighter red fruit.
Rake any leaf or fruit debris from underneath fruit trees. This will greatly reduce disease problems this year.
You don’t have to go to Washington D.C. to enjoy cherry blossoms. Grow your own cherry tree! The tart varieties ‘North Star’ and ‘Meteor’ are recommended. They are naturally dwarf, growing to a mature height of about 10 feet.
Strawberries can be planted this month. Among June bearing varieties, plan for a sequence of harvests by selecting those that ripen at different times. Recommended easy-to-grow varieties include ‘Earliglow’, ‘Honeyoye’, ‘Jewel’, ‘Mesabi’, ‘Cabot’, and ‘Sparkle’.
Raspberry canes may be trimmed to 5 feet tall. By removing the tops of the canes, you will have better quality fruit and sturdier canes. You will sacrifice a little yield, but only about 10%.
Plant your radish, spinach, lettuce, and peas early in spring. These crops need cool weather to grow well.
Don’t cultivate your garden when the soil is wet. If unsure, do the “Fist Test”. Grab a handful of soil. Squish it and then open up your fist. If the soil stays together, stay off the land. If the soil begins to crumble apart, go ahead and work the land.
Leaf litter may be mixed into your garden soil. Shred it with your lawn mower and mix 12 inches of the litter into the topsoil.
Trees and shrubs
Don’t create stubs when pruning. Stubs usually die and are entry points for diseases. Cut just above the branch “collar”, which is the slightly thickened area at the base of the branch.
Late April is a good time to prune evergreen shrubs. Shear off the needles that turned brown from winter burn.
It’s a good idea to remove tree wrap now. If you keep the wrapping on the tree, check it every few weeks during the spring and summer. Trees actively grow during these seasons and their trunks will swell. If the wrapping is too tight, the string that secures the wrapping can bite into the trunk, causing damage.
When buying a lawn fertilizer, look carefully to see how much slow-release nitrogen is in it.
Cheaper, fast-release fertilizers (urea and ammonium nitrate) give us a sense of pride when we see the grass quickly green up and start aggressively growing in spring. But this aggressive growth only means that you have to mow more often. A quick spurt of grass growth provides minimal long-term benefit to the lawn. Slow-release fertilizers will gradually feed the lawn and support good healthy growth. If you fertilized in fall, we generally recommend the next fertilizer treatment to be done around Memorial Day.
Weed-and-feed fertilizers that kill dandelions and other broadleaf weeds should not be applied this early in the season. These chemicals must be absorbed by the weed leaves when the weeds are actively growing.
Crabgrass preventers should be applied before the crabgrass germinates. The first blooms of forsythia are a good sign it is time to put down crabgrass preventer on the lawn, if needed.
This often occurs toward the end of April. Keep in mind the most common crabgrass preventer (pendimethalin) will prevent all grass seeds from emerging, so do not sow lawn grass seed this spring if you use pendimethalin. Read the directions on the label carefully.
Spring is a good time to pull out dandelions. Their roots are smaller this time of year. Their roots will get much longer and sturdier later this summer.
Flowers and houseplants
Begin to gradually remove mulching when green growth appears on your rose, perennials, or bulbs. This is usually when lows of daily temperatures hover around 32 degrees.
Landscape fabric will prevent, but not eliminate weed problems. Weeds can eventually penetrate through these materials. Landscape fabric should not be placed under wood chips; the wood chips should be allowed to naturally decompose and enrich the earth.