Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

The Gardener's April Calendar

Daffodil bulbs emerging from the ground.

The snow is almost gone and spring is delayed by at least two weeks here in central Connecticut, but everyone I talk to is ready for the temperature to stay warmer and put this miserable winter behind us. The tasks start to pile up this month in the garden as a result. Here's some of the tasks I plan to work on this month.

Cleanup and Maintenance 
- I've been sweeping up the black oil sunflower seed shells that the birds have dropped underneath the feeder over the winter. The seed will inhibit the growth of other plants, and I've ruined two areas of grass with that in the past already. I'm hoping that sweeping it up will help this time. (Can't hurt, right?)

- Give birdbaths a good scrubbing. I use SOS or Brillo pads to do the job.

- I'm still cutting down old growth from last year and raking up leaves. Try not to walk on soil that is too wet because this can compact it.

- You can create new paths (and even garden beds) by layering cardboard on top of grass and then covering it with mulch.

Pest Control
- This year I'm trying a new product to discourage the groundhog and voles from eating my plants. (I've had lots of damage in the last two years.) It's called Repellex Systemic, a powder that you sprinkle around your plants. It has to be applied as the plants grow so it will be absorbed by the plants and make them taste like hot pepper. It provides protection for three months. My local organic garden center conducted a trial last year and had great results using it. Hoping the same happens in my garden, but just in case I plan to ...

The violas that were sowed in February are ready for bigger containers.
Garden Structures
- ... repair fencing and trellises. The garden hasn't grown in yet and some areas are more accessible because of it. I'm going to try and block off a gap between the partially fenced in back garden and the black walnut trees to try and keep the groundhog out. I plan on buying a roll of welded wire fence from the hardware store to achieve this.

Most importantly, it's easy to get overwhelmed this month. Remember: slow and steady. If you do a little bit in the garden every day or every other day, you'll have less work to do when the season kicks into high gear.

- Sow peas! I still haven't sown mine as I type this. The grow beds were still covered with snow. I plan to soak mine in water overnight (this helps germination) and then plant them in the soil. The time window for getting peas in the ground is small because they stop producing when the temperature gets too warm.

- Have you started your tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds yet? Now is the time. I try not to start them too soon or they get leggy. With all seeds started indoors, keep the lights above them fairly close. There's usually a 3 inch gap that I leave from the top of the plants to the lights.

- Keep sowing seeds as the month goes on. I have all my seeds sorted into file folders so I know what to plant next. I've fallen behind with some, but I just keep on sowing.

- Sow bread poppy seeds if you weren't able to do so in March.

- The pansies I started in February are now blooming and ready to be moved outside. I'll harden them off gradually to get them accustomed to the temperature change. This also frees up room under the growlights to start zinnia and cosmos seeds (among many others).

Pussy willows are blooming now.
- Pruning paniculata hydrangeas is a good garden chore for the first warm day of spring when gardeners need an excuse to be outside. "You take about a third of the plant off to increase branches in the growing season," said Chris Valley in a hydrangea talk last summer. When pruning, make sure the cuts are uniform so the entire plant grows at the same rate. "After five years, take out the main branches to reinvigorate the plant and spur new growth."

- As soon as the buds begin to swell on the roses, I trim them. (I've also heard it's safe to prune with the forsythia blooms.) I trim out old, diseased or damaged canes and try to remove canes that will impede air flow.

- Prune out old, dead branches on honeysuckle vines. When done in spring, the plant sets new growth more easily.

- Prune clematis. Margaret Roach has advice here.

- Scatter bulb fertilizer around emerging bulbs. I like to use Espoma's Bulb Tone.

- Top dress roses and other perennials with compost. Top dress rhubarb with well-rotted manure.

Fruit Trees
- I have better luck with my fruit trees if I purchase honey bee lures. These use a pheromone to attract bees to the flowers (especially important for my pear trees, which aren't as attractive as apple tree blossoms).  Last year I used Peaceful Valley's lures, and they worked really well! I also have a mason bee house to encourage these non-stinging bees to set up residence in my garden. I found a few on my crocus blossoms today.

The soil is getting warmer and the growing season is upon us. Onward!

I live in Central Connecticut and garden in Zone 6b.

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