Gardening & Living in Grand Style
Gardening thoughts for April...
by Michael Johnson
Apr 17, 2014 | 1467 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The weather has been extraordinarily nice so far this spring, with the exception of less moisture than I wish for. I heard from some early eager beavers that their warm season plants were damaged by some nights being just a bit too cool, but that has been more in specific areas than widespread.

By the time this article comes out we will have passed the average last spring frost, which is around April 15, and so it’s mostly warmer to hotter weather to come. As such, there are gardening projects to accomplish and also a garden pest that is soon to come calling.

Choosing the right trees

With the spring proliferation of short-term plant nurseries and our year-round nursery we have a multitude of plants available for purchase. Of those plants, trees are ones that can bring considerable long-term enjoyment but also pain if you plant the wrong ones and invest years watching them grow only to have problems. It’s true the quality of care your tree receives is important for long-term enjoyment. However, picking the right tree is just as important. Just because a tree is available here locally and is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good tree for our area.

Do your homework in deciding which tree to buy, whether by checking information on the Internet or calling the local extension office. It’s sad how often people call me who have put years into growing a tree only to find out it’s not going to last as long as they wanted.

Caring for flowering shrubs

One spring task that is often overlooked is caring for spring flowering shrubs. The time to prune these shrubs is just after they have finished flowering. If you wait until summer or later you will be pruning off next year’s blossoms.

Also, while I understand that shearing off the top and sides is a common tactic it’s definitely better to take a more shrub friendly approach. When pruning shrubs with multiple trunks it’s best to periodically, say every three years or so, remove one-third of the older “trunks” all the way to the ground and then adjust the top growth if necessary. With shrubs that have one main trunk you can either cut branches back to healthy buds – an method called heading – or cut select branches back to the main trunk, which is called thinning. Rarely do you want to take some shears and just whack off the top and sides unless the square look comes back in style.

The dreaded aphid

A garden pest soon to come calling is the aphid, which loves to feed on the sap of fruit tree leaves and other plants – especially those that have been over-fertilized.

Aphids are mostly soft-bodied insects that reproduce rapidly, so you can have a few one day and then thousands in a week or so with more produced every four to six days. By the time you see the leaves curling on your fruit trees you have already reached pretty high numbers, so it’s always wise to take a proactive stance.

Start by looking at the leaves of your fruit trees, especially underneath and on other plants. If you have had aphids in the past you can disrupt their cycle by simply periodically spraying the leaves of your fruit trees or other plants with moderately strong streams of water. (Please make sure the spray is not so strong as to tear the leaves off.) If the aphid numbers are already high then consider using an insecticidal soap or just a regular non-colored, non-scented soap – no need to add anything else – and spray your plants. Soap is considered a contact kill, meaning you must spray the insect to kill it. So if you spray the leaf and there is no insect then you have only made a cleaner leaf. As such, if insects land on the leaf after you have sprayed it with soap, then at most they will just welcome having a cleaner surface on which to feed, so remember to spray more than once!

Here’s to a great summer, with plenty of positive plant growth, few insects or diseases, some nice summer rain showers and, for those growing vegetables, more produce than you can use so you can spread it around to others.

Thought for the day: “I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” —Jerome K. Jerome

Previous articles are found on The Times-Independent website. Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at

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