Last updated on April 2nd, 2020
Well, hello there, April! Here in New York’s Hudson Valley (zone 5-b), lawns are greening, birds are mating, and dwarf yellow daffodils are trumpeting the arrival of spring. Shall we have a look at the month’s garden chores?
First things first, check your weather forecast. If freezing temps and snow are predicted, you might need to delay your April chores May. So just twiddle your thumbs until the ground thaws.
Winter-Sowing. Many of you have written to say your winter-sown seeds are sprouting. That’s music to my ears. In my neck o’ the woods, mid-April is the time to winter-sow (spring-sow?) zinnias and other tender annuals.
New to Winter-Sowing? You can read all about it in these mind-blowing posts:
Perennial Beds. To avoid damaging emerging shoots, do what I do, and clean up beds entirely by hand. Then apply a balanced, organic fertilizer over the old mulch. Place fresh mulch over the fertilizer.
Mulch. Consider how much you’ll need, and then obtain twice that amount. This way you’ll have plenty on hand for beds and paths. Shredded woodchips, which many communities offer for free, make a fine mulch for beds, as do shredded leaves and pine needles. Pine needles do not acidify the soil. That’s a garden myth.
Dealing with Weeds. If pulling weeds isn’t your idea of a good time — I can’t bear the job — plan to smother the offenders with thick layers of newspaper or cardboard, as above, followed by a layer of shredded leaves or some other mulch. Do this after the ground has thawed. Details and pictures here: How I Smother Weeds With Newspaper.
Consider Vinegar for Paths. I use common white vinegar to eliminate weeds that emerge in my brick, gravel, and blue-stone walkways. I do not use vinegar on my lawn or in my garden beds. Click here to read more about Vinegar v. Roundup.
Dandelions. I let these grow in the lawn during all of April and most of May. Why? Because dandelions provide early food for honey bees. By late May, when the bees can find food elsewhere in the garden, I keep the weeds out of sight with regular mowing.
Boxwood. Late this month or early next, hire a professional to shear and shape these enduring evergreens. I always save some of the trimmings to make new plants. More details and photos in this riveting post: How I Propagate Boxwood.
On a side note, no, that is not my derriere in the above photograph. It is the derriere of a very talented man who trims and shapes my boxwood each spring.
Roses. Uncover and prune shrubs before leaf break. I prune my David Austin roses (pictured above) back by about half, and then apply a balanced, organic fertilizer beneath the drip-line of each. To conserve moisture and reduce weeds, I mulch first with newspaper or cardboard. Then I apply a layer of shredded leaves or shredded wood chips. Here are some of the better roses I grow for their handsome form and intoxicating perfume.
Blackspot on Roses. You can treat this fungus with ordinary milk. Details and photos.
Peony. Apply a trowel-full of wood ashes and one of manure or compost (triple these amounts for huge plants). Also, set ringed supports around plants before heavy growth makes the job impossible. If your peony refuses to bloom, it is either planted too deeply or set in a too-shady location.
Chrysanthemums. Lift and separate, just as this old Playtex commercial advised. Then plant the rooted divisions 18 inches apart.
Iris. Remove and destroy old leaves. Also, remove any surrounding debris in which the eggs of the dreaded iris borer may lie. As you can see in the photo above, my own iris bed is in desperate need of attention. I’m on the job!
And finally, don’t work so hard that you miss out on the miracle of Spring!
In the comments field below, let me know what’s happening in your own garden. Your words are the sunshine of my day.
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