If April showers bring May flowers, hopefully showers (or pouring rain) at the transition between March and April will do the same. I think we’re done with the super-cold weather for this year; the prospect of spring, with warmer, drier weather certainly jump-starts the gardening season. Get out there and prune or even rake some leaves if you haven’t already!
If you started cold-crop seedlings last month, start gradually introducing them to the outdoors during the day (once it warms up a bit more!!!) so they can harden off to be planted end of the month. Make sure they are in a sheltered spot, out of direct sunlight and all but the gentlest breezes until they’ve had some time to adjust. Bring them inside at night. It’s still way too cold to leave them outside. If you have a cold frame, it can and should be left open during the day, but closed as temperatures drop. As the seedlings get used to cooler weather, it can be left open later and later into the evening.
Summer vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squashes, should be started indoors soon. There is still plenty of time for them to grow to a good size before they can be planted outdoors at the end of May. Peas, lettuce, spinach, radish, and carrots can be directly planted into the soil, as soon as it is workable. Herbs can also be started indoors at this time.
Outside, dig into the garden! Leaves and excess mulch can be removed this month, and we can all start to discover what did and did not make it through the winter. Don’t make judgments too early, though, it is still only April. Summer and fall-blooming perennials can be lifted and divided if it did not get done before the snow flew last year, and anything that needs transplanting or moving can be done now.
Early spring is also an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. The sooner they get into the ground, the sooner they will start to set roots. Planting in the cool early part of the season cuts down on the amount of watering that needs to be done as well (especially with the weekly monsoons we’ve been getting). Woody plants and perennials will settle into their new home much easier the earlier they have the opportunity.
Prepare for the season’s onslaught of pests by cleaning up the yard and removing things that could be used as harbor for them. Slugs should be taken care of as soon as they are noticed; the fewer that make it to adulthood, the better off your hosta, lettuce, and other leafy plants will be, and the better your transplants will survive. Slugs love tiny, tender plantlets. Diatomaceous earth, sharp sand, and other organic controls will go a long way to keeping your garden more beautiful.
Remember, more work done in the garden during the cool months of the year means being able to enjoy it, rather than work hard, while it’s hot hot hot in the middle of summer. Plant some shade trees now, and enjoy the benefits all year, and appreciate the beauty of a well-grown shrub or perennial border while sipping iced tea in August. Spring is here, and it’s time to garden!