April

April Garden Calendar

Keep the weeds pulled, before they have a chance to flower and go to seed again

Could there possibly be a busier month in the vegetable garden than April? If you look at the blog this month, you will not see as many posts, OMG, that’s because none of us have time to WRITE!

If you do, we will be happy to post your articles on the blog with full credit to you and your website, if you have one. Simply let me know.

Tools and Equipment – April Upkeep

  • Buy a hose-end shut-off valve; these are available separately or as part of a watering wand. This allows you to turn off the hose as you move around the yard. Also, when you are through watering, you can shut off the water immediately, rather than let the hose run while you hurry to turn off the main spigot.
  • If a wooden handle breaks off of a good-quality tool, look for a replacement handle. It probably will be less expensive than a new tool. However, metal parts are usually very costly to repair.
  • If you take your own tools to work with in community gardens,you can “brand” wood-handled tools for quick identification. Paint your initials on the wood with nail polish then immediately ignite it. Repeat to make the marks deeper, if needed.
  • A “little, red wagon” can be useful for moving fertilizer,tools, or other supplies to the garden. You’ll appreciate its stability compared to a wheel-barrow.
  • In a cutting garden, support stems of tall plants, such as gladiolus, with chicken wire. While the plants are small, unroll the wire to the length and width of the bed and stake it 1 foot above the soil, horizontal to the ground. The stems will grow up through the holes and support the flowers without toppling over. Setting up this support is easier than staking each plant, and you can cut blossoms more selectively.
  • Measure the rainfall with a rain gauge posted near the garden so you can tell when to water. You can buy one, or make one by sinking a can part way into the ground and marking off its interior in inches. The garden needs about one inch of rain per week from April to September.
  • Ice cream scoops are great to dig holes of uniform size when setting out transplants, and the dirt slides right off when you release the handle.
  • When raising and transplanting seedlings in the house or greenhouse, an ordinary table fork is an ideal transplanting tool. You can loosen the plants in the seed flat without damaging the roots. Then you can open a hole for the new transplant in the new flat or pot by rocking it sideways. Finally, by sliding the tines around the delicate stem and pressing down, the transplant can be firmed in the growing medium.

Growing Food in April

This month, depending on your zone you can direct sow…

  • Beets
  • Broad Beans (Fava)
  • Broccoli (early sprouting)
  • French Beans (end of month)
  • Runner Beans (protect)
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots (early)
  • Carrots (maincrop) mid month
  • Summer Lettuce
  • Onion seed (main crop)
  • Spring Onions
  • Peas (early and main crop)
  • Summer Radish
  • Sweet corn (protect)
  • Tomatoes (indoor and protected)

Toward April’s end, you can sow everything directly outside. Plant (if you haven’t already)

  • Onion sets
  • New potatoes
  • Maincrop potatoes

Harvest

  • Broccoli (late sprouting)
  • Lettuce
  • Radish

April Chores

  • Time to turn the compost pile!
  • Cultivate, don’t let your weeds get ahead of you.

Herbs

  • Now is also the time to divide mint, chive, tarragon, and creeping thyme.
  • Plant chervil, coriander, dill, rosemary, and summer savory outside after the last spring frost date for your area. Your local extension agent should be able to give you the date.
  • The Dwarf Dill Fernleaf, is half the height of regular dill and more wind tolerant. It is slower to bolt to seed, and the flavor is excellent.
  • If you harvest mint frequently, growth will be more vigorous. Be sure to grow it in a container to keep it from taking over your garden.
  • For a handsome addition to your herb collection, try lovage Levisticum officinale, a hardy perennial with a sharp, but sweet, celery flavor. Leaves can be used sparingly in soups and salads stems can be blanched or eaten raw and seeds can be added to candies, bread and cakes.
  • Start herb seeds indoors in moist medium. Place in bright, indirect light and move to a sunny window when germination begins. When the seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall, transplant into peat pots for the garden or into clay pots for use on your terrace or balcony. Some herbs easily grown for transplanting include chives, sage, sweet marjoram, basil, summer savory and parsley.
  • Bronze-leaved fennel Foeniculum vulgare ‘Atropurpureum’, an anise-scented herb that grows to 4 feet tall, looks great in the perennial border with tall, red- or white-flowered phlox or tall, silver-leaved perennials, including artemisia.

Vegetables

  • Plant perennial vegetables like asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish etc.
  • If you already have an established asparagus planting thin the plants by harvesting until the spear size decreases.
  • Plant second early and main crop potatoes (as in March). Sow French beans for early harvest and outdoor tomatoes under glass. Continue sowing celery and celeriac indoors as in March.
  • At the end of the month, sow runner beans, sweet corn, marrows, courgettes, squashes, pumpkins and outdoor cucumbers under glass and outdoors.
  • Plant out peppers, cucumbers, aubergines and tomatoes in pots and growing bags in the heated greenhouse.
  • As plants that have been direct seeded begin to sprout be sure to thin them out to avoid overcrowding.

Fruit

  • Cut out all the dead canes from your Raspberry patch. The new canes that will bear this year’s fruit should have new, swollen buds along the edges.
  • If you covered your strawberry beds during the winter, now is the time to uncover them.

Lawns and Landscaping in April

  • If runoff is a problem in your landscape, lawns established with turf grass sod are up to 15 times more effective in controlling runoff than seed-established lawns, even after three years.
  • Warm-season grasses, including bermudagrass, zoysia grass, and centipedegrass, should be fertilized with 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of quickly available nitrogen fertilizers (with less than 50 percent slowly available nitrogen). This application should be repeated in May and June.
  • Bluegrass uses the most water of the lawn grasses. Fescues are between ryegrass and bluegrass in water consumption.
  • Control lawn weeds now through late May before they get large, and temperatures get too high to apply herbicides safely.
  • The first grass clippings of the season are rich in nutrients and contain fewer weed seeds than those collected later. Put them in the compost pile or mow frequently and leave them on the ground.
  • Where flower gardens or window boxes are visible from indoors, select flowers in colors to complement your curtains or porch decor.
  • An important principle of garden design to remember is to have your plants in groups large enough to form masses of color or texture. As a rule, five or seven plants set a in grouping to form an irregular shape creates the desired effect. A large delphinium or peony may be of sufficient size to be attractive alone, but a random collection of individual, small- to medium- sized plants will yield a disorganized appearance.
  • A well-designed berm or man-made hill is a landscape asset. Even a low berm adds considerable interest on a flat property. A berm will provide screening for privacy, deflect and absorb noise or redirect wind or water flow where necessary. It can also improve the micro-climate for plants; its south side staying warmer, the north side cooler.
  • A tall, evergreen hedge north of your home can cut heating bills by 34 percent in windswept regions or by 10 % in sheltered areas. If your house is exposed to winter winds, this spring, consider establishing an evergreen planting for a windbreak.
  • Many herbs are excellent for natural-appearing rock gardens or formal plantings with brick pathways. These herbs do well in sandy soil and are partial to full-sun locations: creeping thyme, sage, santolina and garlic.
  • Estimate your grass seed needs at 2 to 3 pounds of bluegrass seed or 4 to 8 pounds tall fescue per 1000 square feet. Remove debris, level and firm soil before seeding. Cover seed by raking the area lightly.
  • Do not mow the lawn until it has grown at least two inches. The roots are being renewed in the spring and grass needs vigorous top growth initially.
  • Plant grass seed to fill in bare spots in your lawn. Loosen the soil to a depth of one-half inch with a spade or rake. Sow a good-quality seed with a low percentage of weed content and a high germination rate. Spread the seed liberally and work it in lightly. Use a fertilizer designed to encourage root development in new lawn areas. Gently water the newly seeded area. Keep it moist, but not flooded. Use a mulch, such as straw, to retain moisture.
  • Lawn grasses do best if mowed at the correct height:
      Kentucky Bluegrass 1 1/2 to 2 1/2″
      Tall Fescue 1 1/2 to 3″
      Creeping Red Fescue 2 to 3″
      Perennial Rye Grass 1 1/2 to 2 1/2″
      Bermudagrass 1/2 to 1″
      Zoysia Grass 3/4 to 1″
  • Once the snow melts and the surface is dry, established (but uneven) lawns will benefit from being rolled. Depressed areas may be filled with shifted topsoil. Fill in the sparser areas by sowing new seed.
  • The lawn mower blade should always be sharp so as not to tear the grass. If you sharpen the blade at home, be sure to balance it, too. Place the center hole of the blade on a screwdriver handle held upright in the vise. Check to see if it balances. If not, sharpen the heavier side some more until the blade balances on the handle.
  • Remove sticks, rocks and other debris from your lawn to prevent damaging your lawnmower or injuring yourself when mowing. Check your lawnmower and other lawn-care equipment in preparation for the coming season.

Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs for April

While April is a month when springtime warmth begins in earnest, it’s most beautiful certainty are two of the most beautiful shrubs in the perennial garden, forsythia and the oh so fragrant lilac. My grandfather used to say that when the lilacs bloom, it is time to sow seed that can take a nip (of frost that is).

  • When purchasing bedding annuals this spring, choose properly grown plants with good color. Buy plants with well-developed root systems that are vigorous, but not too large for their pots.
  • Do not select under-developed plants with shallow, poorly grown root systems that cannot absorb the moisture held in deeper soil and are more subject to damage from the rapid changes in temperature and moisture level typical of the soil surface.
  • Observe your daffodil and other spring bulbs while in bloom this spring to be sure they have not been shaded by the new growth of other tree or shrub plantings. If they have, you may need to move your bulbs to a new, sunny location or prune back the plantings.
  • Plants bought from greenhouses need to be hardened off before being planted in the landscape. Place newly purchased plants outside during the day, but bring in at night to protect from early season, cool, night temperatures that may injure or kill the plants. Gradually, the plants can be left outside for longer periods of time until they have fully acclimated and can be planted.
  • In many zones (zones 7 and 8), try Saxifrages Saxifraga spp. for rock gardens, walls, and woods. ‘Rock Garden Mixed’ are easy-to-grow, mossy varieties that grow well on rock ledges and walls. The spring-flowering, soft, evergreen types S.umbrosa are more suited to rich, well-drained soil in cool and
    shaded spots, such as on the edges of woods.
  • Fertilize bulbs upon emergence of foliage with a 10-10-10 fertilizer, using a rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet. Repeat the application after the bulbs have bloomed.
  • The cool weather of April is perfect for pansies. Brighten up your front door with pots of transplanted pansies or place them in outdoor beds as soon as the soil can be worked. Purchase large plants that will give a good show before hot weather arrives.
  • Lift, divide, and replant chrysanthemums as soon as new shoots appear. Each rooted shoot or clump will develop into a fine plant for late summer bloom. Pinch out the top when the plants are about 4 inches high to thicken the plant.
  • Mites, mealybugs, and root rot pathogens can be problems for
    dieffenbachia grown indoors. Control with insecticide soap spray. Spray this homemade aphid control mixture on the mites or mealybugs every few days until they recede. This home remedy to get rid of aphids, mites, and mealybugs will suffocate the aphids.
  • Try the new, semi-dwarf cosmos, ‘Sonata White.’ It is wind tolerant, grows to 20 inches high, and is great for cut flowers.
  • If growing vinca in a greenhouse, do not over water, and keep the temperature about 80F. Vinca will wilt from too much water.
  • When growing houseplants in water, occasionally change the water completely (rather than just adding more) to keep mineral salts or algae from building up in the water.
  • Chickweed Stetlaria media is native to Europe, but has naturalized in all the temperate regions of the world. It roots easily along the stem and produces flowers and seeds from March through December. Chickweed can be controlled (unless you are going to eat it!) by hoeing early when the plants are still small. But bear in mind as you take it out that it is a most nutritious tea. You may want to find a spot to actually let it grow for this purpose.
  • If you want to plant an Easter lily outside, don’t plant it near other lilies. Easter lilies may carry a virus that can infect other lilies.
  • Morning glories must be grown in a well-drained soil in a warm, sunny location. Rich soil and excessive fertilization yields vigorous vines with few flowers. Start seeds indoors in 4-inch pots for transplanting outdoors two or three weeks after the average last frost date. Soaking seeds in water overnight will speed germination.
  • As you plant asclepias, hostas, hardy begonias, and Japanese anemones, label them since they begin to sprout late.
  • Dusty miller, though usually treated as an annual, is a tender perennial. In warmer parts of the state, or if winter has been mild, plants may overwinter. If any come back in your garden this spring, dig and divide, replanting the more vigorous outside portions of the clump.
  • Take chrysanthemum cuttings now through mid-June for flowers during fall and winter in the greenhouse.
  • To increase the apparent length of your flower borders when seen from inside, place the majority of the warm- and hot-colored perennial plants (yellows, oranges and reds) nearest the house. Concentrate the blues, which have a tendency to appear more distant, in the second half of the garden. Along with the blues, include some pink and mauve flowers. Plants with silver foliage can be used to provide a unifying ground color throughout. The actual dimensions of the borders and the paths separating them can help increase the illusion of distance. In a 20-foot-long border, make the planting about 1 and 1/2 feet narrower and the path about 1 foot narrower at the end away from the house.
  • Plan to attract hummingbirds to your garden this year by planting red or orange flowers. Monarda (beebalm) is a good perennial to provide nectar for these small birds.
  • When you are out shopping for annual flowers for your garden, look for plants with lots of unopened buds. Plants that bloom in the pack are often root bound and can be set back for several weeks after being transplanted. Plants not yet in bloom will actually bloom sooner, be better established and grow faster.
  • If you have a deck with a sturdy rail around it and would like a spectacular show this summer, attach a gutter along the outside of the top rail for a planter. Fill it half full of container-soil mix. Install one of the inexpensive, drip-irrigation systems that can be hooked directly to your garden hose to simplify watering and finish filling the gutter with soil mix. Plant your gutter planter with small, flowering plants appropriate to the available light. Impatiens are excellent in shady areas. Fibrous begonias are good in full sun or light shade. Petunias, ageratums and dwarf marigolds all perform well in full sun. Fertilize the gutter garden every two weeks using a water-soluble fertilizer according to package directions.
  • An unusual, hanging fern garden can be made with two wire baskets, some unmilled sphagnum moss, potting soil and small ferns. Line the baskets with the moss and fill the cavity with moist soil. Hold a piece of cardboard on top of the baskets and flip them over onto a workbench, then tuck small ferns securely over the surface of each basket. Again using the cardboard to keep the soil in place, invert one basket and place the other on
    top of it, forming a ball. Carefully slide the cardboard out, wire the baskets together, add a strong, wire hanger and hang the fern ball in a shady, protected place outdoors for the summer. Keep the fern ball moist.
  • Don’t throw out the little gladiolus cormlets you dug out with the larger corms last fall. Plant them in a row in the garden this spring, and in two years, they will reach blooming size.
  • Plant dahlia tubers as soon as the danger of frost is passed. Stake at the time of planting to avoid injury to tubers.
  • To ensure the dahlia tubers you plant have survived storage, sprout them indoors in a warm, lit spot.
  • Consider planting flowers that can be dried for winter arrangements. Some of the best are strawflower, statice, Chinese lantern, celosia and globe amaranth.
  • To extend the blooming period of gladiolus, plant early, mid-and late-season selections each week until the middle of June. Choose a sunny location and plant the corms four to six inches deep and six to eight inches apart.
  • While commonly grown as a house plant, strawberry begonia Saxifraga stolonifera can also be grown as a ground cover in light shade. It is cold hardy to -10 degrees F.
  • Scatter annual poppy seeds in flower borders. The fine seeds need no covering. The plants grow rapidly and provide colorful flowers in early summer.
  • In a sunny location with poor soil, plant nasturtiums for a colorful show. They require warm soil to sprout and start blooming in about 50 days. Too much water and nitrogen in the soil produce excess leaves and few flowers so plant as a companion with tomatoes… they like the same.
  • Three levels of flowers add vertical dimension to patio planters. By grouping three flower heights trailing, low edging and tall background) into one container, the maximum number of plants can be combined without crowding. For example, use trailing blue lobelias or ivy-leaved geraniums near the edge to form a cascade. Petunias or dusty miller can fill in the second story. In the background, use plants that will grow to 2 feet or
    more by the end of the summer and add height without heaviness such as large-type geraniums or Purple Ruffles basil.
  • When chrysanthemums show signs of life, dig up and divide large plants. Discard woody portions and replant divisions 12 to 15 inches apart.
  • Plant clematis in locations that receive at least six hours of sunshine a day. Use an organic mulch or ground cover to shade roots and keep them cool. Plant in rich, well-drained loam.
  • Aster contraster is the world’s first aster with stripes. The fully double, incurving, three-inch blooms come in a wide range of color. Pinks, carmines, blues, lilacs, rose and mauve are contrasted with a white stripe. The plant is dwarf, reaching only 9 to 12 inches, with a round compact habit. A. contraster looks
    equally well in a tub on the patio or planted as a group in the garden.
  • The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station reports that larger plants with more flowers can be grown in a soil mix consisting of 1 part sphagnum moss, 1 part peat moss, 2 parts perlite and 2 parts compost than with 4 other commonly used mixes. Sphagnum moss is reported to increase aeration and water-holding capacity and to suppress soil-borne diseases.
  • Many popular perennials can be divided now including: phlox, fall asters, shasta daisies, baby’s breath and liriope. Set up a plant exchange with friends and neighbors to share the excess.
  • Planted now, Sedum spectabile and Hosta tardifolia or H. plantaginea will brighten your flower bed in the fall with flowers. Aster novae-angliae, which is a blue aster, or the red chrysanthemum cultivar ‘Minn Ruby’ are also late blooming.
  • When iris leaves appear thin and limp, check for borers. These grub-like insects can ruin an entire planting if not detected and eradicated early.
  • Fill the bare spots in the flower bed with moss roses Portulaca and feed regularly to encourage blooms into the summer.
  • Blue amaryllis Hippeastrum procerum and green amaryllis H. calyptrata present a rewarding challenge to patient gardeners. Seeds, available from select, mail-order, seed companies, bloom in about five years.
  • For hot-weather color, select one of the following: Gloriosa Daisy, Madagascar Periwinkle, Ornamental Peppers, Mexican Zinnia or Amaranthus ‘Joseph’s Coat.’ Plant after all danger of frost is past and plan for color until winter arrives.
  • April is a good time to clean up plants and flower beds. Pick out dead leaves and twigs and prune dead limbs.
  • Make a plot layout of your flower borders. This is a very essential, but easily neglected, chore. With an accurate plot plan, you will know where to locate the spring flowering bulbs you plant next fall. Also, it will make your spring and summer gardening easier. You will be able to correctly identify the plants in your border and plan for continuous blooming by setting young annuals between bulbs and early flowering perennials after
    their blooms have faded.
  • Label the clumps of daffodils that are too crowded, as overcrowding inhibits blooming. Dig up and separate in July.
  • Cut flower stalks back to the ground on daffodils, hyacinths and other spring flowering bulbs as the flowers fade. Do not cut the foliage until it dies naturally. The leaves are necessary to produce strong bulbs capable of re-flowering.

Trees, Shrubs, and Ground Covers in April

Berries & Fruit Trees

  • Set out strawberry bare-roots or seedlings. Remove flowers from newly planted strawberries to prevent fruiting in their first year. Pinch off runners on new strawberry plants. Put cloches over strawberries in frosty regions if you want an early corp. Allow access for bees. Cover berries with netting to keep away birds.
  • Tie new canes of blackberries to strong support wire. Allow eight or so canes per plant.
  • Prune gooseberries for summer by cutting back side shoots to five leaves. Fasten grape stems to training wires.
  • Thin new fruit on citrus, apple, and peach trees. Thin heavy-cropping nectarines and peaches when fruit is 1/2 inch (1-1.5 cm) in diameter. Protect open flowers from frost damage by draping muslin or horticultural fleece over trees at night. Mist open peach flowers with a fine spray to help the setting of fruit.
  • Prune fruit trees cutting out crossing branches. On fan-trained apples, cherries, peaches, and plums, remove branches growing towards or away from the wall.
  • Check for pests and disease. Watch for signs of fire blight; prune affected branches and dispose of them. Watch for borers and caterpillars on trees. Hang coddling moth traps on apple trees. Spray against apple scab, mildew, and aphids.
  • Spray against pests and disease when the buds burst or after the flower petals fall, but never on open flowers. Fruit trees and bushes should not be sprayed with insecticides while the flowers are open or the bees are working. Use sprays at dusk to avoid harming pollinating insects.
  • Check tree ties on newly planted trees. Water newly planted trees and bushes during prolonged dry weather.
  • Trees help counteract the “urban heat island” effect. Urban areas with a high percentage of concrete, highways, glass, and other objects are hotter than rural areas. These urban heat islands have reduced ventilation and warm temperatures. This causes an increase in the amount of ozone pollution in the air. Rural areas with trees are less likely to have the urban heat island effect, resulting in less ozone pollution.
  • Don’t coat pruning cuts with tree paint or wound dressing, except for control of certain disease-carrying insects. These materials won’t prevent decay or promote wound closure. Some tests, however, have shown wound dressings to be beneficial on trees that are susceptible to canker or systemic disease.
  • Not all plants are harmed by juglone (the toxin given off by black walnut trees), and even the most susceptible are sometimes only slightly affected. This reduced effect is explained by research at the University of Colorado, showing that where drainage is good, juglone is decreased or inactivated. Soil with good aeration contains certain species of Pseudomonas bacteriathat feed on juglone. These bacteria are absent in heavy and wet soils with limited oxygen.
  • Layering has been found to be successful on more species of trees and shrubs than any other style of vegetative propagation. Layering consists of wounding a branch of the plant, then covering the wounded area with a rooting medium, such as soil orsphagnum moss. The branch usually will form roots around the wound while it is still attached to the parent plant. Layering is most successful if done in spring or late fall as rooting is most vigorous in cool weather.
  • Hydrangea is one gift plant that transplants well into the garden after its flowers fade. When the weather warms, plant in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Don’t be surprised if the next year’s flowers are a different color than the first year. Blue or pink hydrangea color is dependent on the pH of the soil. Alkaline soil produces pink flowers; acidic soil produces blue flowers. White hydrangeas are not affected by soilpH.
  • Many gardeners plant annual and perennial flowers to attract hummingbirds. Woody plants can also be added to the yard to provide nectar for our smallest native birds. Some common trees visited by hummingbirds are buckeye, horse chestnut, catalpa, apple, crabapple, hawthorn, silk tree, redbud and tulip poplar. Shrubs include azalea, beauty bush, coralberry, honeysuckle, lilac, New Jersey tea, Siberian pea shrub and red weigela.
  • Heavenly bamboo nandina is a frequently used shrub. Consider opting for a unique variety such as ‘Harbour Dwarf’ with foliage ranging in height from 18 to 24 inches. It spreads by underground rhizomes, and with its red, winter color and interesting texture,makes an excellent, low-maintenance, ground cover.
  • Don’t add organic matter to the soil when planting trees. It does not help the tree become established and may create conditions that encourage the roots to stay inside the planting hole instead of spreading into the surrounding soil. Do dig a large planting hole, but fill it with the original soil that wasremoved from it.
  • For more-compact, pyracantha bushes without the risk of losing the crop of berries, pinch back new growth now.
  • The last Friday in April is National Arbor Day – plant a tree or support an organization that does!
  • Some shrubs grow best on acid soils with a pH of about 5. These include andromeda, azalea, blueberry, camellia, mountain laurel and rhododendron. At a higher pH value, these shrubs may become yellow and have very poor growth.
  • Prune roses to buds that point outward to encourage good air and sunlight penetration. Dark-colored canes indicate dead wood. Cut back an inch below these darkened areas. If no live buds are left, remove the entire cane or branch.
  • Prune spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, weigela and early spirea, after they have completed flowering.
  • If dogwood leaves have been small, sparse and pale, the trees may need fertilizer. Take a soil sample from the area beneath the trees using instructions provided by your local Extension agent. Return the soil sample to the Extension office and request a soil test. Correct fertilizer recommendations will be returned with the test results.
  • Once new growth begins on trees and shrubs, cut back to green wood any twigs affected by winter kill.
  • Aphids on your roses will cause deformed, inferior flowers. If aphids are noticed, mix a sprayer of homemade insecticide soap spray. Spray this homemade aphid control mixture on the aphids every few days until the aphids recede. This home remedy to get rid of aphids will suffocate the aphids.
  • Tree seedlings can have a strong start in quart or half-gallon milk cartons. Remove top and bottom and stand on a frame covered with 1/4-inch, mesh hardware. Fill with a mixture of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. As the tap root grows through the bottom of the milk carton tube and mesh, it is “air pruned” forcing the development of fibrous, side roots.
  • To repair damaged tree leaders, a lateral or side branch can betrained while still young and flexible to become a strong, terminal leader.
  • Do not fertilize azaleas and camellias until they have finished blooming. They also should be pruned after blooming.
  • The best time to plant shrubs and trees is on a windless, cloudy day.
  • When pruning forsythia, do not shear as you would a hedge. It is best to thin out the old branches as close to the ground as possible. This should be done immediately after blooming.
  • Before planting bare-root shrubs and trees, soak the roots in water overnight.
  • If wisteria does not bloom, it needs careful pruning to correct the condition. Prune long, straggling canes and all dead wood. Root pruning sometimes helps, too.

Indoor Gardening April

  • Prevent stem rot of house plants by potting up plants on a slight mound with the soil sloping 1/4 to 1/2 inch lower at the edge of the pot.
  • Now is a good time to start a cactus garden. Cacti may be started from seeds or from cuttings. Sow seeds in trays filled with a mixture of half sand and half potting soil. Cover with glass or plastic film to retain humidity while seeds germinate. Take cuttings using a sharp knife. Set cuttings aside for one day to form a callus before placing them in the sand/soil media. Once rooted, transfer seedlings or cuttings to shallow containers filled with a quick-draining media.
  • Don’t overpot African violets. They bloom better in small pots.
  • A popular gift plant, the Easter lily, needs bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight and keep the soil moist. After blooming, it can be planted in a sunny spot in the garden after danger of frost is over, where it will bloom next year.
  • Don’t be too anxious to move your house plants outdoors. Even a good chill can knock the leaves off of tender plants.

Miscellaneous Gardening Reminders for April

  • To determine if soil is ready to work, squeeze a handful into a tight ball, then, break the ball apart with your fingers. If the ball of soil readily crumbles in your fingers, the soil is ready to be worked. If the soil stays balled, however, it is still too wet to work. Use this test in another week to determine if the soil is ready to be worked.
  • It is best to cut a vine off at its base if it covers a wall that needs repointing (repair of old mortar). Consider building a trellis to keep the vine from further damaging the wall. New, vigorous growth from the base of the old vines will recover the wall or trellis in time.
  • Keep a calendar close to the door going to the garden. Use it to track when and what you plant, fertilize, and harvest. Also note the weather. You will refer back to these notes each year.
  • Discourage nibbling deer in your garden this year by using plants that most deer don’t find tasty. Less tasteful annuals appear to include ageratum, dusty miller, french marigold, periwinkle, snapdragon, sweet alyssum, wax begonia, and zinnia. Perennials include bleeding-heart, foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, peony, and yarrow.
  • Bark, wood chips, or wood shavings are suitable mulches for flower beds of perennials or for walkways. Sawdust is good for walkways, but until it begins to decompose, it can stop water penetration.
  • If peat and soil-less mixes are hard to moisten, use warm water because it soaks in easier than cold water.
  • If you like birds and small animals in your yard, build sloping, rock-faced mounds. Birds will probe for food, and chipmunks may take up residence in the rock crevices.
  • Due to the cost of cut flowers, a flower garden grown from seed is a wise investment for fresh flowers all summer. Nasturtiums, zinnias, sweet peas and snapdragons are a few of the many old-fashioned, easy-to-grow annuals finding their way back into home gardens for informal, fresh bouquets.
  • When tiny seedlings are transplanted into individual containers, water by placing pots in a shallow pan of water. Do not pour water into pots as this disturbs the roots. When the media is moist, remove the pots from the water and place them ina shady spot for a day or two before returning plants to a sunny place.
  • Birds consume hundreds of insects each day, and wise gardeners encourage them to take up residence in orchards and gardens by installing bird houses, feeders and water sources.
  • The sound of dripping water attracts birds. You can create an audio, water feature in your garden with a plastic milk jug. Punch a tiny hole in the jug with a sewing needle. Fill the jug with water and adjust the size of the hole so the water drips very slowly, approximately 1 drop every 10 seconds. Hang the jug from a tree and put a clay or plastic saucer or birdbath underneath. If using a saucer, raise it on bricks or stones since many birds are not comfortable on the ground. Painting the milk jug green will make it less noticeable or you could find a more attractive reservoir. At 8 to 10 seconds between drops, a milk jug takes about 2 days to empty.
  • At this time of year, honey bees swarm, leave their hives and seek new hives. New swarms are not aggressive and should be left alone.
  • While sighing over any problems insects may cause in the garden, take a moment to wonder over some of their amazing feats as well. Grasshoppers can jump over 20 times their length. Fleas can jump 8 feet; we could leap the length of a football field, if we had the same skill proportionate to our size.
  • Moles are tunneling, insect eaters particularly attracted to grubs. When bulbs are missing or shrubs have root damage, look for voles or field mice to be the culprits. These rodents often use mole tunnels as their runs.
  • Can you identify the soil type of your garden, lawn, orchard and berry patch? Have you tested your soil? Don’t guess about fertilization. Soil testing will help you base fertilizer and lime applications on the present condition of the soil and the nutrients needed by your plants. Contact your local Extension office for instructions for sampling soil.

Gardening is an exercise in optimism.
Sometimes, it is a triumph of hope over experience.
~ Marina Schinz