Early spring is a wonderful time to enjoy brisk, sunny days outdoors as you clean up your gardens and watch your plants slowly begin to grow. Nothing is more welcome than the first blossoms on snowdrops, crocus, magnolias, forsythia and other plants that herald the beginning of another growing season. Frost is likely every night in April but some cold hardy plants can shake off the cold weather and keep right on growing.
Week 1 Summer flowering shrubs such as Anthony Waterer spirea and Annabelle hydrangea may be cut back to the ground. These plants bloom on new wood and will quickly grow back and bloom in mid-summer.
Week 2 Lightly rake your lawn to remove dead grass, sticks and debris. April is also a good time to rent a core aerator and go over high traffic areas two or three times to reduce soil compaction.
Week 3 Start tomato seeds indoors using a sterile soil mix that is kept uniformly moist. Provide good light and transplant seedlings into 4” pots when they are about 1” tall. Keep the plants indoors in a warm, bright place until they are transplanted outdoors in late May.
Week 4 Seed bare spots in your lawn using a mix of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and creeping red fescue. Dead grass must be raked out first to make sure the seed is in direct contact with bare soil.
Week 5 Spread fertilizer under roses, apple trees, grape vines and strawberries. Trees, shrubs and evergreens may be fertilized if they grew slowly or had smaller, light green leaves last season.
- Clean up gardens by cutting back dead tops of perennials, raking out leaves, removing winter mulch and pulling any volunteer trees or shrubs you may have missed last year. Prepare gardens for planting by mixing in compost or sphagnum peat moss and slow-release fertilizer.
- Early spring is the best time to divide flowering perennials including daylilies, hosta, monarda, balloon flower and many others. Clumps that are 4-5 years old may be dying in the center or have fewer, smaller flowers. Use a spading fork to lift the whole clump and a heavy knife or sharp spade to cut the healthy, outer parts up into 4 or 5 divisions each containing some good roots and several shoots that will grow quickly when replanted at the same depth in rich garden soil.
- Encourage migrating birds to stop in your yard or take up residence by supplying food, water, nesting materials, birdhouses and plantings of tall shrubs, evergreens and plants with berries, seeds or nectar for hummingbirds.
- Make lawn mowing easier and provide better growing conditions for your trees, shrubs and flowers by incorporating landscape plants together in beds with flowing curved edges. Remove grass between plants, install edging, and add 4” of bark, woodchips or other mulch materials. The mulch will reduce weed problems and hold moisture in the soil during dry periods.
What to Plant
1. Pansies are much tougher than the name implies and may be planted outdoors in gardens or containers in April. Pansies are not harmed by freezing temperatures but if they have been grown in a greenhouse they should be gradually exposed to outdoor temperatures if you want to plant them in early April.
2. Trees, shrubs and evergreens will benefit from April showers and early planting gives these plants time to grow new roots that help the plants deal with hot and dry conditions that are sure to come later in the growing season.
3. Cool season vegetables such as leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes and onion sets may be planted outdoors as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Snapdragons, bachelor buttons and sweet pea seed can be planted outside in April as well.