The Gardener's April Calendar ~ 2017

Every spring is different, and 2017's has rushed in like a band late for their first gig. Suddenly, the hellebores are blooming alongside the snowdrops, making way for the scilla and the grape hyacinths, the daffodils and hyacinths, with the tulips soon in tow. The fruit trees are blooming (out of order, with this year the plums beating the pears for the first blossoms) and suddenly the perennials are doubling in size each day.

Spring is here! And so is the gardener's ever-growing to-do list. Here are some tasks I hope to complete this month:

  • Pest control: I'm continuing my use of Repellex Systemic, a granulated repellant that can be sprinkled around plants to deter groundhogs, rabbits and deer. It has to be applied as the plants grow so it will be absorbed by the plants and make them taste like hot pepper. While it takes a few weeks to be fully effective, it provides protection for three months. In the past, my tulips made it through last spring unscathed, as well as my Oriental poppies.
  • Pruning:
    • Paniculata hydrangeas: Take a third of the plant off to increase branches in the growing season. Make sure the cuts are uniform so that the entire plant grows at the same rate. 
    • Roses: As soon as the buds begin to swell on the roses, 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.
    • Clematis: I trim off the dead parts of the vine and leave the rest.
    • Montauk daisies: Cut them back to encourage new growth. 
  • Seeds, bulbs and tubers:
    • Sow peas! Soak them in water overnight (this helps germination) before planting. The time window for getting peas in the ground is narrow because they stop producing when the temperature gets too warm. If you think you've waited too long to sow the seeds, see if your garden center has plants already growing that you can pop into the ground.
    • Hot weather veggies: Make sure you have sowed your tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds. I try not to start them too soon or they get leggy. Leave a 3 inch gap between plants and the grow lights so they don't stretch too far.  
    • Dahlias and begonias: Pot up tuberous begonias and dahlias now for a jump on the blooming season.
  • Cleanup and Maintenance: A gardener's work is never complete!
    • 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. Old perennial growth can be removed and laid on top of compost piles to give native bees and insects a chance to wake up and leave. I've also started collecting the hollow stems and cutting them down to about 6 inch pieces and tying them together with garden twine to create future nesting sites for solitary and mason bees. I place the bundles in my empty mason bee house.
    • 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.
    • It's time to sweep up fallen black oil sunflower seeds underneath feeders. (The seed will inhibit the growth of other plants.)

  • 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.
  • Fertilizing: Scatter bulb fertilizer around emerging bulbs. Top dress roses and other perennials with compost. Top dress rhubarb with well-rotted manure.

  • Visit gardens! Now is the time to catch public gardens as the flowers begin to awaken. For some ideas of places to visit, click here

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


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