Ah, April… The birds are singing, the flowers are starting to come up, the air is starting to get warm as the sun is higher in the sky… OR, it could be very warm one day and way below freezing with 3″ snow the next, as it has been this past week. You have to be flexible in weather like this, or at least have a sense of humor. The plants in the ground will be ok – they have the soil and the snow to keep them warm, and the nitrogen that will be added to the soil as the snow melts is a real bonus. Blossoms may be lost if it gets too cold, something which can have negative effects on fruit production, for example, but on the whole, the plants will be fine.
April is a great time to get organized in the garden, and there is definitely plenty to do. On the cold, rainy days when there isn’t a lot of motivation to go outside, make yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and sharpen your pruners. Or think about which seeds you might want to plant directly outside, like beans or peas.
When the weather is nice enough outside, and the urge to get outside and get your hands dirty strikes, there are a number of things that you can do:
Transplant, if the soil has thawed enough to easily dig. This year, the soil is soft and so transplanting things right now makes a lot of sense, as long as you can see enough of the plant to make sure that you are getting all of it. Roses, for example, are easy to see as so much of them stays above ground in the winter. Other plants are just starting to start growing at the base, so you can see those pretty well. Don’t try to guess if you don’t know where a plant is, you will likely do it more harm than good.
Click here for a good article on transplanting roses.
Why now and not when the plants are in full leaf? Think about it this way: Plants only have so much energy to expend. If they are busy producing leaves to collect energy and flowers to attract pollinators (to basically ensure the survival of the species), they won’t have the energy needed to put into growing new roots and establishing themselves somewhere new. But in the spring, they are bursting with renewed energy, and so they will take to transplanting nicely.
Jobs in the vegetable garden.
~April is the perfect time to plant Rhubarb.
~If you have an established strawberry bed, watch for flowers and be sure to cover any flowering plants with a sheet or horticultural fleece whenever a frost is expected. If the flowers die, no strawberries!
~Plant peas. For 4th of July peas, now is the time to plant. Peas like to grow in cool weather, so planting the seeds now means that they will get most of their growing before the weather gets too hot.
~Plant Nasturtiums. As well as adding a riot of color to the vegetable garden, Nasturtium blossoms are a great addition to salads. They have a peppery taste which is quite nice – and they look good, too!
Prune/trim shrubs that bloom in late summer. Pruning out dead wood is always ok, no matter when shrubs bloom, because future blossoms won’t be affected. But if you prune a Spring blooming shrub now, the plant won’t have time to recover and set blooms again. So stick with shrubs like Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus siriacus) that bloom in the fall, and you will be pleased with the results! (Don’t prune that one right down to the ground, though, or it won’t come back – we learned the hard way!)
Well, that ought to keep us busy for awhile… In the mean time, enjoy the flowers/birds/mud/snow/warmth/baseball, whichever applies!