Hooray, April is here! Yes, the calendar says the first day of spring is in March, but we all know it’s April when we really see signs of life in the garden again. From the chilly northern regions to balmy climates, plants are coming out of their winter dormancy and ready to get the party started. If you’ve been following our previous months’ garden goals, you’re more or less prepared to hit the ground running. But even if you haven’t, there’s still time to get caught up before the garden season is in full swing — using these goals as your reference.
Garden Season Prep Goals:
- Complete one last inspection of your garden tools and make sure everything is repaired and in good working order — you don’t want to find out that your hose has a hole or your shovel handle is about ready to break when you’re planting all your veggies!
- Remember those goals you made last year to start a new bed or decrease the size of your lawn? Now’s a great time to start prepping those areas so they’re ready for planting soon.
- Do a quick run-through on your irrigation system — each zone should turn on, all heads should be operating properly, and the timer set for your new watering schedule.
Garden Chore Goals:
- Stay on top of weeds. Weeds like nothing better than to bask in the warm sun and take up space — don’t let them get out of hand or your new seedlings will be choked out.
- Start transplanting your seedlings. All of those veggie and flower seedlings that you lovingly tended in the cooler months are ready to go — check with your local garden center for recommended times for transplanting them in the garden.
- Get your veggie garden going. If you didn’t start your own veggies from seed, go ahead and buy transplants from the garden center. Follow your area’s planting schedule closely, always keeping an eye on the weather. Some plants, like tomatoes, will have difficulty setting fruit if they are planted too early or too late.
- Continue pruning with a purpose. It’s easy to get caught up in Spring Garden Mania, at the ready with clippers and pruners, but please resist clipping just for the sake of clipping. Pruning should always be done with a purpose in mind — to remove suckers or dead/diseased growth, to control shape, or to encourage healthy growth and flowering. Have spring-flowering shrubs or trees? Wait til after they’ve bloomed to do any light pruning.
- Be prepared to cover and protect. Have row covers, freeze cloth, clothes, tarps, or sheets on hand for those late season cold snaps. Where we live, we almost never get a freeze after March 1, but this year, it happened. Luckily, we quickly protected our tender tropical plants and everything was toasty warm with no freeze damage.
- Be on the lookout for garden pests and diseases. Aphids, beetles, thrips, and cutworms can do quite a bit of damage seemingly overnight at this time of the year. It’s good to do a garden inspection every couple of days to identify any possible problems. Remember to look under leaves, along stems, at the base of the plant, and where new growth is emerging — these are all favorite hiding places for damaging insects.
- Schedule your first lawn fertilizing. Most areas of the country can apply their spring lawn fertilizer around the middle of April — hold off, though, if you live in a colder growing zone. The soil temp should be 55 degrees or warmer with new grass growth emerging. Use a fertilizer with a higher first number (for nitrogen) on the package, such as a 20-5-10 mixture.
- Turn your cover crops. If you planted winter cover crops, be sure they are turned into the soil 2 weeks before planting time.
- Plant your patio container gardens. Use high-quality soil specially created for containers, and plant spring-blooming annuals like petunias, violas, pansies, alyssum, snapdragons, gerbera daisy, impatiens, and dianthus. The annuals you plant now will vary by region and growing zone — in my area, pansies are a winter annual, but in cooler zones, they are a spring bloomer.
- Replenish your bird feeders. Invite feathered friends to your garden by placing bird feeders and bird baths nearby. Set up your hummingbird feeder as well, and remember to put a fresh mixture in every few days (especially as the weather heats up).
Garden Chill Goals:
- Host an outdoor gathering to herald spring’s arrival, with your garden as the backdrop. Invite family for a BBQ or, if it’s still a bit chilly where you live, light a fire in the fire pit and have neighbors over for happy hour. Don’t forget Easter is a few weeks away — perfect timing for a friends and family Easter egg hunt in the garden!
- Color affects your mood, so remember that when you’re shopping for seasonal color at the garden center. Hot colors (red, bright pink, yellow) uplift, cool colors (purple, lavender, soft pink) soothe, high contrast colors (orange/purple, blue/yellow, or any color with white) energize, and monochromatic colors (all shades of any one hue) calm.
- Sit back and enjoy. Sure, we know it’s a crazy busy time in the garden, but what’s the garden for if not to feed our souls? At the end of a hectic gardening day, take a moment with a cold beverage and enjoy what you’ve created.