Berkshire Garden Journal: Deer ticks, rainfall and tasks ahead


Finally, our weather seems to be heading in the right direction, the current rains notwithstanding. However, given the dry conditions of the previous four weeks, I'll take the rain.

Clearly, deer ticks were not bothered by the prolonged cold spell. They have been active for some time. Several hikers and
gardeners have reported finding themselves hosting these hitchhikers.

Deer ticks are not to be taken lightly. Take precautions to avoid picking up deer ticks when working outdoors by applying tick repellents beforehand.

Among the gardening tasks on the to-do list for the coming weekend:

• Take inventory of garden tools and supplies. With gardening activities moving into high gear you don't want to be stuck in low gear because of a shortage of fertilizer, potting soil, pots, plant labels, tissues for when allergy season begins, and other supplies.

• Start seeds of tomato plants this weekend. It's not too late. I'm never in a hurry to start tomatoes since several studies have shown that tomato seedlings six weeks old are most successfully transplanted and ultimately yield more fruit than older transplants. Starting the seeds now will produce plants to set out in early June when night temperatures average 55 degrees.

• Pot up summer flowering bulbs to be grown in containers. Tuberous begonias, caladiums, calla lilies, canna lilies, and colocasia are tender bulbs that grow well in containers. Since these plants are not frost tolerant, they'll have to be kept indoors in bright light until ready to move outdoors.

• Enjoy the surprises that gardens and landscapes provide this time of year. There is always something new to see each day whether it be expanding leaf and flower buds on trees and shrubs, the blooming of early bulbs such as crocus, daffodils and scilla, or the blossoms on such early blooming plants as hellebores, pussy willow, and Cornelian cherry dogwood.

• Take a pruning saw and hand pruners on daily walks around your home grounds. Look for dead, damaged and diseased branches on trees and shrubs and prune these. Also prune branches that may be crisscrossing and rubbing against one another (cut out one of the offenders), branches that may be growing back toward the center of the tree or shrub, and branches that have simply grown out of bounds.

• Prune to ground level a third of the oldest stems on multi-stemmed shrubs such as forsythia, spirea, ninebark, beautybush, lilac, mockorange, and weigela. Otherwise, these shrubs become overcrowded with stems which in turn reduce air flow and light penetration into the center of the plant. Removing the oldest stems every year will keep the shrubs healthy and productive.

Two upcoming events of note:

• The Annual Garden Symposium put on by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Association will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School on 197 East St.

There's still some room in the various classes and workshops and walk-up registrations will be taken. For more information on the presentations, go to

• Diane Wetzel, coordinator of the community gardens at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield, will be teaching organic gardening to participants in the community garden program on Saturday, April 20, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox.

She says there are plenty of garden plots available at Canoe Meadows, so, come to the program and sign up for one.


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