April 5, 2017

10 Things To Do in the April Garden

by Toni Leland

Across New England, one hears a collective sigh of relief each day that dawns with warmer weather. Some regions are happier than others, but the promise of spring arrives in April and gardeners are seen poking through leaves and inspecting shrubs. For most of this month – at least in the colder parts of Connecticut – we'll be cleaning up, planning, possibly planting early-season seeds such as peas, and dreaming.

What needs to be done this month?

    1– Inspect your property for winter damage. Heavy snow and ice might have taken a toll on shrubs and trees. Identify damage early and determine what needs to be done. Broken limbs will need to be pruned or sawed off cleanly. Broken shrub branches should also be pruned just behind the break. If you're not comfortable with these jobs, be sure to enlist a knowledgeable landscaper or arborist.

    2– Early pruning of dead wood and thinning branches on shrubs should be done after buds begin to form. Dead wood is easier to identify at this time. Cut back any remaining perennials that weren't cleaned up last fall, but wait until new growth appears on woody ornamentals such as Montauk daisy, lavender, butterfly bush, etc.

    3– Some mulch and leaves can be removed now from hardier plants such as Stonecrop and emerging spring bulbs. Clean up iris beds and discard dead foliage in the trash because the iris borer lays its eggs in this debris. Resist uncovering any tender perennials just yet. April can be unpleasantly cold at night until about the third week, depending on your locaton. Northwestern Connecticut and hilly regions will stay colder longer. Southeastern and shoreline gardens are less likely to be surprised by a night freeze.

    4– If hydrangeas or other shrubs have significant buds, keep a sheet handy in case night temperatures are predicted below freezing. Once the buds are frost-bitten, they'll die and the shrub will have to start over.

    5– Weed! Yes, the never-ending chore starts early, especially if you want to get a head start on the winter perennial weeds. These hardy plants continue to thrive even under mounds of snow. Hairy bittercress, Henbit, Chickweed, and Creeping Charlie are at full-steam-ahead now; the bittercress is blooming and setting seed already. With the ground so moist, these weeds are easy to pull.

    hairy bittercress, purple deadnettle, common chickweed
    (Left to Right) Hairy Bittercress, Purple Deadnettle, Common Chickweed (Leland Images)
    6– Ornamental grasses should be cut back to 6 inches now, before new growth emerges in May. Don't cut too low – leaving a base for the plant gives it strong support when fully grown.

    7– Landscape beds are easily expanded now while the soil is moist, but take care not to dig if soil is heavily saturated. Use this time to plan what new plants you'll use in your gardens. Draw up a paper blueprint, marking the existing plants and make notes about light and water requirements for each area.
    Hosta is easier to divide when small
    (Leland Images)

    8– As tall-growing perennials begin to emerge, use this opportunity to set your stakes and supports, especially for plants like peonies and oriental lilies.

    9– Now is the time to divide large clumps of ferns, grasses, and hostas as they emerge. 

    10– Finally, be sure to protect those new sprouts, shoots, and buds from the deer. Colorado State University Extension recommends this recipe, and I've used it for years with great success.
      Being prepared for the growing season will make your gardening so much more enjoyable.

      No comments:

      Post a Comment