The Gardener's April Calendar - 2016


As I write this month's garden tasks, the snow has once again fallen in Central Connecticut and the temperatures have plummeted back into the 20s. What gives? After a pretty warm winter, April is having an identity crisis. The best bet is to keep trucking along at the tasks you can do, which for me is catching up on all my seed sowing!

Here are some other tasks 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.
  • Remove old foliage from irises to lessen the chance of the Iris borers settling in this season.


Pest Control

  • I'm continuing my use of Repellex Systemic, a powder that you sprinkle around your plants, to deter groundhogs. 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 tulips made it through last spring unscathed. This year I sprinkled some on my Oriental poppies as well.

Garden Structures

  • Make sure to repair fencing and trellises. It's a lot easier when the garden hasn't filled in yet for the summer.


Seeds and Bulbs

  • Sow peas! I still haven't sown mine as I type this. I had a hunch to not plant them when we had those nice 70 degree days about a week ago, and I am glad I listened to that hunch! Now it's too cold. 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. Especially if you have snow on the ground right now.
  • You can start potting up tuberous begonias and dahlias now for a jump on the blooming season. 


Pruning

  • 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 previous hydrangea talk. 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 clematis. Margaret Roach has advice here.
  • Trim back Montauk daisies so they are about 12 inches high. 

Fertilizing 

  • 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.


Don't let this late winter spell deter you. Spring is here! (It's just buried under the snow out there.) Onward!

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

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