Just around the corner – the long Easter Holiday Weekend is traditionally a time when we gardeners roll up our sleeves and move mountains to create a garden we can enjoy over the growing season ahead. We will stick our nose out to sniff the fresh spring air and with a long weekend before us, it’s a chance for anyone who has ignored their plot over winter to make a mark.
It is a turning point. A marker in the year. The beginning of new opportunities and a time for optimism.
So what should you do?
- Well, it’s good to mow the grass – not on Easter Sunday when a bit of peace and quiet would be preferable to a whining engine. But today, or on Monday, give the lawn a gentle haircut. By gentle I mean that you should not risk a “grade 1” or even a “grade 2”, but a “grade 3” will do nicely – leave around an inch of grass.
- Clean up the garden – Ideally, you’ll have done this in March but, if not, now’s the time to get it done. Rake out and collect all unwanted debris – dead leaves, stems, old mulch, dried flower heads – anything that’s not going to grow this year and won’t be used to create an organic layer in the garden. Dispose of this debris in the trash – do not compost it as it could be harboring diseases and insect eggs.
- Cut back perennials– Many gardeners leave stems standing throughout the winter to create interest in the garden. Cut them back now
- Prune back woody perennials – Perennials with a woody structure, such as butterfly bush, caryopteris, lavender, Russian sage, and Montauk daisies, should be pruned back once new growth appears. Butterfly bush should be cut back to nearly ground level as it will easily grow 6 feet or more in a single season (note that it’s considered invasive in some areas).
- Remove mulch – As new growth appears, gently pull back mulch to uncover emerging plants.
- Cut down ornamental grasses – Keep grasses looking good by cutting them down to nearly ground level before they start to sprout (don’t cut too low or you’ll damage the plant – don’t cut too high or the plant will look like it’s wearing a straw skirt). Pruners will work on smaller grasses, hedge trimmers work well on larger ones, and for those in-between a sickle is a good option. For fescue, just rake your hands through the plant to remove dead foliage – don’t cut it back.
- Weed, weed, weed – Everyone’s least favorite task is a definite must-do in early spring – whatever doesn’t get removed now will turn into a vigorous and unwanted focal point in your summer garden!
- This is the big month for planting vegetables, however if planted too early, frost will kill your plants unless you are prepared to protect them on those cold nights. Starting seeds indoors before your last frost date will give you a jump start on the growing season. Knowing when to transplant seedlings outdoors will help to maximize your harvest. You can stake tomatoes or provide cages to surround them. Set out transplants of herbs.
Note: The April gardening tasks described here are for gardeners in zone 6. Tasks may be done earlier, or later, if you live in warmer or colder areas. I’ll be adding more information over time showing tasks in other areas of the country.