my april garden chores
APRIL IS THE MONTH THAT UNHINGES me slightly, and then comes May, when I just come apart. That said, it’s also pure heaven, this thing called spring: the affirmation each day of possibility and potential coming true before your eyes, the magic. What died will make itself known this month…and what lived will scream for your attention, all at once. And not in harmony. (PS: The chores are being published early this month because you don’t think I’m going to tell you what to do on April Fool’s, do you? Too easy an out!)
However frazzled we feel, remember to feel this: grateful to be here to see it, and even to be here to do it all (or as much as we can get done, because the list is worrisome, isn’t it?). Progress, not perfection, as they say in the 12 Steps. Onward, together, into Season 2.
COOL-SEASON ANNUALS like pansies and violas can be potted up for spring color.
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.
VEGETABLE & FRUIT GARDEN
LAST CALL FOR PEAS is early April here, 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.
PRUNE GRAPE VINES to no more than four fruiting canes with 7 to 10 buds apiece if you didn’t in March.
CUT OUT CANES OF raspberries that have borne fruit, and any that are thinner than a pencil. Shorten the remaining young canes by at least a foot.
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.)
On using this list in your garden: The monthly A Way to Garden chores and based on my Zone 5B Berkshire MA/Hudson Valley NY location; adjust accordingly. NEW: If you are in a colder zone, refer to last month’s. Ahead of me? Have a sneak peek at the next edition.