The Gardener's April Calendar


A lot has changed since I compiled the last list of monthly garden chores, and I hope as you are reading this that you are healthy and practicing social distancing. It is all too easy to read the headlines and become overwhelmed by pandemic news. I've had some days where anxiety and fear is all consuming and makes it hard to focus on anything.

Yet, spring continues. The flowers in my area are blooming early this year, and I'm making myself focus on the plants outside, the houseplants I care for indoors, and the seeds that need starting. So I hope that you too will consider finding solace by working in your garden, or perhaps decide to grow something for the first time. Because planting a garden is about hope, and we all need to believe in tomorrow.

Stay safe.

@}-,-'---,---'

Here is the growing list of items to work on this month:
  • 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. 
    • Montauk daisies: Cut them back to encourage new growth. 
    • 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.
    • Hellebores: If you haven't removed last year's growth, now is the time. Plus, it makes for prettier photos. 
    • Raspberries: Cut back stems that bore fruit last year and anything thinner than a pencil. For the remainders, cut back at least 12 inches. If you plan to move your raspberries, now is the time. 
    • Grapes: Here's a great guide. 

  • Seeds, bulbs and tubers:
    • Sow peas! Soak them in water overnight (no more than eight hours) to help germination before planting. Use a soil thermometer to take the temperature of the soil — peas like a soil temp of 45 degrees F and above. 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. (Please note: Many garden centers in Connecticut right now are offering ways to purchase plants over the phone and then can either be picked up by driving up and loading in car trunk or through delivery.)
    • Cool weather crops: Now is the time to get broccoli seedlings outside. You can start planting seeds for lettuce, radish, turnip, beet, arugula, spinach, carrots, collards and kale, too. Start a new crop every three weeks for succession sowing. 
    • 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. For dahlias, look for tubers that have an eye showing. 
    • Last call for poppies. Scatter the seeds on top of cold soil now so they germinate. 
  • 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 (in case they haven't already done so). 
    • 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.)
    • Cut back the ornamental grasses. If you don't have a tool you like, you can use a serrated bread knife to do the job.
  • 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.
  • Soil test: Now's the time to send out samples so you can address any last minute issues before the season fully kicks off. 
  • Take photos of your garden as the bulbs emerge this spring. They will come in handy in the fall when you are trying to remember how many daffodils you have or where there are empty spots that might need filling in with — you guessed it — more spring bulbs! 
I live in Central Connecticut and garden in Zone 6b.

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