April has always been the busiest month for me in the garden. There is so much to do, and I’m happy to share my “gardening by month” tips for April. These are based on zone 8, with an average last frost date of April 18th. If you live in a different zone, make sure to confirm the frost dates in your area, and plan accordingly.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that Spring is finally here! Spending time in the garden and greenhouse these past few weeks, has been incredibly helpful to me.
The month of April still brings many showers to the PNW, but the weather is starting to warm up. It is so rewarding to see the garden bursting into blooms. Our local nursery is still open, so I’ve been able to get more seed starting mix and some vegetable starts. Perennials such as tulips, daffodils, candytuft and primroses are lifting my spirits, adding a splash of color to the spring garden.
If you have not already done so, make sure to create a garden plan, laying out the flowers that will go along your borders, and in your garden beds, for the entire year. This is such an important step to ensure continuous blooms throughout the seasons. You’ll also be able to remember where your seasonal perennials are located, even if they are have not popped out of the ground yet.
Garden Planting in April
I’ve just finished sowing a variety of annual seeds in the greenhouse. These include Cosmos, Zinnias, Marigolds, Strawflowers, Snapdragons, Bee Balm, Orach, Stock, Larkspur, Nasturtium, Dill, Phlox, Sweet Peas and Globe Amaranth. I will be starting to harden off and acclimate these plants around mid April, so they will be ready to transplant into the garden by May 1st. To read more about acclimating your seedlings, visit my blog post on Seed Starting Basics.
April is a great month to plant fruits and vegetables in your garden. The following can be planted outdoors in the Pacific Northwest: Beets, carrots, lettuce and salad greens, radishes, peas, fennel, potatoes, kale, broccoli, blueberries, strawberries and onions can all be sown. For a longer salad harvest season, weekly sow lettuce and greens.
The following vegetables can be started inside: Cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, melon, pumpkins and squash.
You can plant the seedlings of rosemary, chives, oregano, parsley, and mint, outside, as soon as the soil is workable. To determine if the soil is ready to work, squeeze a handful into a tight ball, then break the ball apart with your fingers. If the ball of soil readily crumbles in your fingers, the soil is ready to be worked. If the soil stays balled, it is still too wet to work.
The month of April is not too late to plant any rhododendron or azalea plants in the garden. Continue to plant bare-root trees, shrubs and roses.
Plant your dahlia tubers as soon as the danger of frost is passed. Stake them at the time of planting, to avoid injury to tubers.
Clematis can be planted this month, in locations that receive at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. Use an organic mulch or ground cover to shade roots and keep them cool. Plant in rich, well-drained loam.
Monthly Maintenance in the Garden
This month is a great time to start dividing and transplanting both summer and fall flowering perennials in your garden. These can include phlox, black-eyed Susan’s, daylillies, astilbe, shasta daisies and sedum. By dividing your perennials, it will help to keep the plants healthy and prevent crowding, as well as create more plants for other areas in your garden. If you don’t divide certain plants every 3-4 years, they can die out in the center of the plant, leaving a bare hole.
Dividing can be stressful on plants, and they will recover better from shock, if the conditions are cool and moist. Because of this, spring and fall are the best times to transplant.
When bulb blossoms die, clip the flowering stems as close to the ground as possible. Let the leaves die gradually, so they will build food reserves to support next year blooms. Sow or plant hardy annuals in areas where spring bulbs will die back.
You can fertilize this month, but do not feed spring-flowering shrubs like azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons, until after they have finished flowering.
Mulch your garden soil. Spread 1-3 inches of bark chips, compost, wood shavings or other organic material under shrubs, trees, annuals and vegetables.
Prune any spring-flowering shrubs and trees after they have finished blooming, and the flowers fade. Make sure you do this immediately after flowering, so you’re not cutting into next years blossoms.
April is a good time to clean up plants and flower beds. Pick up dead leaves and twigs, and prune dead limbs.
Label any clumps of daffodils that are getting too crowded, so you can dig them up and separate them in July. Overcrowding will inhibit blooming.
Sprinkling garden lime in a circle around the base of lime-loving plants, such as lilac, mock orange and daphne, will ensure the pH in the garden will stay alkaline enough. Hydrangeas also benefit from liming. Varieties such as Endless Summer, turn pink when treated.
Cut your fern fronds down this month, in order to create a fresh new plant for the rest of the year.
Weed and Pest Control
Use either a strong stream of water or use safer soap products, if you see aphids in your garden.
Slugs can be in full force this time of year. Plants that are most susceptible to slugs, such as marigolds, hostas, dahlias and zinnias, can all benefit from slug bait. I use Sluggo in my garden, which is pet and wildlife safe. However, there are more natural alternatives as well.
Hopefully, I have given you some tips you can use in the garden this month. As most of us isolate in our homes right now, the garden can be a place of peace and meditation. I hope that you can take advantage of being outdoors. If you are reading this, and still have freezing temperatures and snow on the ground, try sowing some seeds inside. Nothing brings me more joy than to see a seed start popping out of the dirt.
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