April 19 2019

Garden to-dos in April

Despite a few last-gasp winter temperatures, March was a good month to start getting ready for gardening season. Now, you should be all set to finish prepping so that in May you can hit the ground with the rest of your planting.

Inside jobs

It’s too early to put summer bulbs like caladiums and tuberous begonias outside. But pot them up inside and put them on the porch on milder, sunny days so they’ll be ready to go into the ground in June.

You also should be sowing your veggie seeds under those grow lights so you’ve got solid starts when the frost-free date arrives. And now is the time to trim your house plants and overwintered plants, repotting the ones that have gotten too big for their containers. Don’t forget to check for insects and diseases, too, and top off soil as needed.

Outside matters

As the days get longer and warmer, it’s more pleasant to be outside to take care of any lingering maintenance:

  • Cut down the perennials you left up over winter for the animals or as natural mulch. The root clumps need full sun to warm up and start plant growth.
  • Hoses, watering cans, gloves, and wheelbarrow past their prime? Replace those now.
  • If you didn’t clear an area last fall for a garden, do that now. The easiest way is to put black plastic over the grass, and the sun’s heat will weaken and kill what’s underneath, while warming the soil.
  • Remove weeds from flower beds.
  • Examine the soil for compacted spots — usually around tree roots and next to pathways and shrubs. If you topdress the area with organic matter it will improve the soil, making it easier for plants to thrive.
  • Check for places where water is settling, or any other problem areas that need to be addressed this season. And start paying attention to where you’re getting sun. That will change, of course, once the leaves are back on the trees. But map where the sun hits and for how long throughout the day so that you put plants in spots where they will thrive.
  • Look at your early spring bulbs — crocus, tulips — to see if they might be getting overcrowded and then plan to divide and transplant when they finish blooming. Also look for emerging perennials to determine if they should be divided, as well.
  • Remove any unwanted weeds and plants from the lawn.

While you definitely should wait until May to do the bulk of your planting, you can put a few things, like pansies, in the ground now. If you’d like to start some trees this spring, you should head to the 2nd Street Market on April 19 and 20 for the free annual Caroline Kimes Tree Seedling Giveaway. Thanks to the generosity of the Montgomery and Miami Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Rush Creek Gardens, there will be hundreds of seedlings to choose from.

There are things you should hold off on until the weather is more consistent:

  • Buy mulch, soil and compost if you want, but don’t spread it yet — it will hold too much water in the cold temperatures, which leads to root rot or fungal diseases. You can put mulch at the edge of your beds, though, for show.
  • If your crabapple or dogwood tree has started to flower, wait to prune its dead branches until it’s done blooming.
  • Wait for warmer weather to clear the dead leaves from around the bases of plants — you don’t want to open the plants to frost damage.

The most important thing for you to do as spring is springing? Go out and be amazed at what nature is up to. The wildflowers are coming up, the pollinators are out and all is right with the world.

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