April gardening checklist
Gardens start to come alive this month, and if the weather cooperates, it's a time to plant, water everything and take care of the lawn.
In some areas, April brings the first signs of winter's end; in others, it's the gateway to hot, summery weather. But in most climates, it's the magical month when gardens start to come to life.
Remember to adjust gardening tips to fit your own growing season — but most important of all, wait until the last frost date to put tender plants in the ground.
Here comes the sun, which means that greenhouses are starting to heat up. On warm days, be sure your greenhouse is well-ventilated. Give more regular care to greenhouse plants by stepping up your watering and fertilizing schedule. Also make sure to check your greenhouse thoroughly for pests.
Even beginning gardeners can brighten up a terrace, patio, deck or windowsill with containers tumbling with flowers.
- Use hanging baskets, pots of all sizes and planter boxes — or ask the kids to help you paint old pails or coffee cans — for clusters of color.
- Fill containers with bulbs and bedding plants to be transplanted in warmer weather, or make permanent plantings.
- Spark up potted shrubs and trees by surrounding them with dashes of perennial color.
- Group cactus plants of different heights and shapes, or try your hand at a container bonsai garden.
- Apartment dwellers, if you haven't made a windowsill herb garden, what are you waiting for?
Don't let your garden dry out before it even hits full stride. Get into the rhythm of watering regularly early in the season to ensure happy, healthy plants.
- Set up a watering system to minimize the work of regularly watering your garden beds. Make sure a hose or watering can is accessible in areas that you will water often throughout the growing season.
- In container gardens, make sure that your geraniums, pansies and other container plants are getting enough water.
- This is an ideal time to check on the moisture of plantings at the base of evergreens or under eaves. These are often left parched, even in rainy climates.
- MSN Glo: The season's best gardening tools
Carpenters and carpenter wannabes: Lots of garden projects are easy enough for beginners.
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Try to devote one weekend of each spring month to building projects, and beautify your garden with simple or elaborate embellishments.
- Make a simple entry trellis to frame your walkway with a shower of climbing roses.
- Garden paths, from basic steppingstones to brick or timber steps to colorful flagstones, can meander cottage-style or lead directly to a meditation pond.
- Add benches to frame your deck or patio, or build a bench to encircle a large tree for dappled shade in summer.
- For vertical variety in your container garden, make a pot trellis for creepers or climbers to cling to — you'll even have time to spare for building raised vegetable beds or a wall trellis for clematis.
Want the greenest lawn on the block? Well, start now or forever hold your peace with a less-than-lush lawn.
- Between now and May, after grass is well-established, give the lawn a light raking before fertilizing.
- Choose a spring fertilizer that contains moss killer if moss is a problem.
- You can now overseed your lawn (using about one pound per 300 square feet) to help fill in bald patches and fight the return of weeds and moss.
- If your lawn has begun growing in earnest, you can also aerate it now, making it more absorbent and reducing summer water needs.
- Start cranking up your mowing schedule and put those grass clippings to work. Adjust your mower to cut only one-third the length of its blades, then leave the clippings on the lawn. They'll feed the growing grass much-needed nitrogen as they break down.
- Make sure newly sown grass is getting enough moisture.
Planting trees and flowers
In some areas, the time has passed for transplanting large shrubs and trees, but in many climates you can still plant deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, perennials, hardy annuals and rock-garden perennials such as yarrow, rock jasmine and small dianthus.
- Geraniums and fuchsias that have spent the winter in hiding should be repotted for a fresh start.
- Midspring is also a good time for planting dahlias, most lilies and gladioluses for summer blooms, but hold off a bit longer on sensitive canna lilies and tuberous begonias.
- If you haven't planted or set out berries yet — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries — now's your chance. Just be sure they have plenty of water.
In most areas, April is the real start of the outdoor vegetable garden, especially perennials such as asparagus, although it's probably still not warm enough to plant heat-loving crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.
- Wait until the end of the month to plant corn and beans, but you can put potatoes, onions, radishes and other root crops in the ground now — or anytime. Before transplanting, start hardening off cool-loving greens and root-crop seedlings such as cabbage and lettuces, carrots, chard, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Place planters of root vegetables in a shady, wind-protected area, moving them daily for more sun exposure.
- Until a few days before planting time, bring the planters back indoors at night.
- If it's warm enough at the end of the month, start sowing seeds directly into the soil.
Shearing, pruning and grooming
From now until late spring, the time is ripe for shearing and pruning evergreens of all kinds.
- Cut only in the green foliage areas to ensure that branches will regrow, and maintain that nice draped evergreen shape by keeping the top smaller so that bottom branches will receive needed sunlight.
- Stop pruning roses and buddleias, and prune fuchsias late in the month.
- After rhododendrons bloom, remove the spent flower clusters with clippers or snap them off by hand.
Mulch and compost
Don't neglect the soil in which your garden grows. Mulch and compost add valuable nutrients, as well as protection from heat and drying out.
- Even in areas you haven't yet planted, but especially around shrubs and perennials, add a light layer of mulch to help summer water absorption.
- Mature trees, climbers and roses (now that you've stopped pruning) should also be mulched now.
- Start turning your compost regularly, and mix old and new compost together with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.
- Bing: Make your own natural insecticides
Don't let pests enjoy the fruits — or vegetables for that matter — of your gardening labors. Take precautions early and throughout the growing season to keep your plants healthy and edible.
- Treat newly planted fruit trees for pests after the first buds appear on branches.
- Keep protecting new shrubs and fruit trees from unexpected night frosts.
- Especially now, after planting tender seedlings, make a slug-and-snail tour armed with a saltshaker, or bait slugs with shallow bowls of stale beer.
Give a little love to your houseplants, and they may give back to you. For example, did you know spider plants help to purify the air by removing carbon monoxide?
- Give houseplants a boost after their dreary winter: Gently remove topsoil and replace it with a top-dressing of compost.
- Repot plants that have outgrown their winter containers. Use the next size up, and cover the drainage hole with screen mesh or a pot shard to prevent soil from washing through.
Try growing your own marijuana so you know that there are no insecticides or mold on your buds. There is an ebook showing how to grow, harvest and make great little edible treats of marijuana! This book has great recipes for edible marijuana that are easy, small and cheap to make: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. Only 2.99. Learn to make marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints.
My Mom lives on the golf course and the deer are everywhere she has tried all kinds of things to repel the deer from her beloved flower beds. she has found that the predator urine to work the best , she bought it at walmart but she warns to stay downwind when spraying because you don't want to get it on yourself hope this helps.
I have a problem with armadillo's - they tear up every new plant I put in my garden - I have tried everything but traps - I do not want to trap them just to take them to a new location.
What is the best way to get rid of these pest.
This is my second summer in Fort Mohave, AZ, and I learned a good lesson last year - plant early!!!! Our day temps now are in the high 70s and low 80s, and we did have one 90 degree day already.
Got my tomato plants in about three weeks ago, then another 4 about 10 days ago. Planted squash, green beans, corn, onion sets, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, bunching onions, dill, garlic chives, snow peas - all about a month ago. All up and doing great. Quite a difference gardening here as opposed to my old place in Utah where we could have frosts as late as the end of April! No frost here at all at any time!!!! I love it.
Due to more unpredictable climate, even as many areas are getting soaked right now, I installed my first "rainwater harvesting system" aka 80 gal. rain barrel and I can feel good I am at least trying to do my part in not having rain water go down the drain and overburden our water resources...I have also read, due to all additives in "drinking" water aka flouridated, chlorinated water, flowers/plants do much better with natural rain water (as long as it isn't too acidified)...for the first time, I saved a lot of bulbs which would not make it through the winter to put back in the ground, and I am going to expand a wildflower garden with natural local varieties, on top of strictly delineated garden beds.....to kill the grubs, you can use nematodes and milky spore which will stay in the soil season after season instead of harmful chemicals typically used which will harm pets and are very dangerous for humans, and only work short term necessitating you buying more every year...avoid "tru green" and other chemical fertilizing/spraying cos. and pressure them to be more envir. friendly and less toxic....
I also have used deer netting but am now switching to landscape fabric which also offers some frost protection in order to get plants in a couple weeks earlier (once again, w/climate changing, around here there was a thirty degree drop one night last week, which is all it took for unprotected plants, which had already started blooming in 60 degree days)....
If you are trying to plan a small garden, you want vegetables that provide a lot of produce for the space. Don't plan corn, potatoes, or pumpkins. Start with tomatoes, green pole beans, a root vegetable such as beets or carrots, and maybe some green or purple cabbage. I start by purchasing small tomato plants and cabbage seedlings. The rest I plant from seed. Cabbages don't mature until late summer or fall, but you get a huge amount for the space, and slaw goes great with any barbeque, and the heads of cabbage last a long time instead of ripening and needing to be used or given away. Blue lake pole beans keep producing until the cold weather which ensures something green to eat all summer and into the fall. Of course, the biggest producer is zucchini and yellow squash which can be grilled, steamed, roasted or served raw. Every climate has a few veggies that do better than others, so ask around and see what other people in your neighborhood are doing well with. When you purchase your tomato starts, purchase one early tomato and at least one roma or other late producer.
I tried planting upside down tomatoes last year without much luck. I would like to try something else in my upside down planter. Any thoughts?
My goal is to plant a small garden this year. It is my first time, Can anyone tell me how to plant a starter garden or what flowers and vegetables would be best to try that is not too difficult to care for?