april garden chores
COOL-SEASON ANNUALS like pansies and violas can be potted up for spring color.
TRIMMINGS FROM APPLES and other early flowering trees and shrubs, such as quince, crabapples, forsythia, can be forced into bloom indoors. (My method is in the March chores.)
ONCE BEDS ARE CLEANED UP, topdress according to label directions with an all-natural organic fertilizer and a layer of finished compost. Wait to apply mulch until the soil warms thoroughly.
PREPARE NEW BEDS by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.
FEED BULBS as green shoots get up and growing.
PRUNE ROSES just as buds begin to push, removing dead, damaged and diseased canes and opening up the plants to allow light and air; feed. Plant new roses, especially those that come bare-root.
HYDRANGEA PRUNING: Prune paniculata hydrangeas and Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ (not moptop blue hydrangeas).
WAIT UNTIL AFTER BLOOM to prune spring-flowering shrubs like lilacs.
WHEN WORKING IN BEDS and borders, be careful not to clean up too roughly; desirable emerging self-sown annuals and biennials (larkspur, clary sage, Verbena bonariensis, perilla) can be disturbed unless you pay attention.
TENDER BULBS like cannas, callas, tuberous begonias, dahlias get a headstart if potted up indoors now, then transplanted after all frost danger passes.
LAST CALL FOR PEAS is early April, to avoid running into hot summer weather at harvest time.
COLD-SEASON TRANSPLANTS like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts can be sown indoors still if you hurry (or store-bought seedlings can go outdoors around month’s end). Sow carrots, radishes, dill.
TOMATOES ARE SOWN INDOORS around 6 weeks before their frost-free set-out date, or around mid-April here for early June planting outdoors. Eggplants and peppers can be sown indoors, too.
DID YOU ORDER potatoes for planting later this month or next? Some gardeners say to do so when the forsythia blooms.
WHAT ABOUT asparagus crowns to start a bed? Did you order those?
FERTILIZE GARLIC planted last fall as greens get up and growing.
BARE-ROOT FOOD CROPS like raspberry bushes, strawberry plants, young fruit trees, asparagus, go in as soon as they arrive.
STAY OFF SOGGY LAWNS, period. Once the ground is firm and dry, lawns need a vigorous raking with a bamboo rake (not plastic) or dethatching with a rented machine, then overseeding as indicated.
HAVE MOWER SERVICED and sharpened before it’s needed a month from now. (Next time, do it in fall.) Fill fuel can; have correct oil on hand.
‘READ’ YOUR LAWN WEEDS to determine what’s really needed this season. Moss means you need lime, for instance. Get off the chemicals this year.
REMOVE FINISHED COMPOST from bottom of heap and make room for incoming garden debris.
SCREEN FINISHED COMPOST before using to remove twigs and stones; turn remaining partially broken-down contents of heap to aerate and get things cooking. Moisten if pile is dry. Use finished compost to topdress beds before applying mulch in a few weeks to them. (Composting basics explains it all.)