By April, we’ve all had enough of Mother Nature’s idea of a bad joke; namely, a long, hard winter. Now, we’re looking forward to warmer spring weather and a chance to get into the garden.
Here’s our checklist to help you get ready for gardening season. We can’t always predict the weather, so some of these tips may need to be ‘seasonally adjusted’ depending on current weather conditions.
Beginning of April
- Clean and sharpen hand tools such as pruners and shovels.
- Sharpen or replace the blade on your lawnmower and buy fresh gasoline.
- Ensure that your electrical cords and garden hoses are in good condition.
- Repot houseplants if they are pot-bound to give them a good start for the growing season.
- Now is a good time to take a look at the ‘bones’ of your garden before everything leafs out. Did you have enough winter colour this year? This spring consider planting trees or shrubs with interesting bark or that produce winter berries for late colour as well as providing food for visiting birds in the depths of winter.
- Indoors start the seeds of warm weather plants such as tomatoes, peppers, ageratum, alyssum and marigolds.
- Prune fruit trees before new growth begins.
- Apply dormant oil sprays to fruit trees and woody plants to control hibernating insects. Apply it while the buds are swelling, but before the leaves open out.
- Once you’re convinced the snow and ice storms are over, remove the protective winter covers from trees and shrubs.
- Plant directly into the garden those vegetable and flower seeds that prefer cool weather to germinate. For example, carrots, parsley, lettuce, spinach, dill, peas, bachelor’s buttons and poppies. Be sure to check and follow instructions on the seed packages.
End of April:
- Once the ground has thawed, look for plants that have heaved out of the soil and resettle them.
- Remove winter protection from roses and prune them before they start to leaf out.
- Repair fencing, decks and trellis or lattice work.
- Rake up leaves and other winter debris.
- Cut back ornamental grasses and the dead stalks from last season’s plants.
Beginning of May
- Fertilize established trees and shrubs.
- Once the soil is workable plant new trees and shrubs.
- Weed flower beds and lawns.
- Edge flower beds.
- Lift and divide large clumps of perennials (like hostas) before the leaves get large. Slice through the root ball with a spade leaving a few shoots on each piece. Replant the sections back at their original level.
Mid to end of May:
- Build up with soil any low spots in your lawn. Re-seed or over-seed damaged lawn areas. De–thatch and aerate your lawn if required, and fertilize with slow release fertilizer.
- Some early bedding plants can be planted while it’s cool. For example, pansies, snapdragons and dianthus (pinks). Wait to plant new perennials and warm season annuals until the danger of frost is past.
- Prune shrubs that bloom in summer and fall on new wood. For example, buddleia (butterfly bush).
- Delay pruning early flowering shrubs such as forsythia and lilac until after they have bloomed.
- Fertilize perennials when two to three inches of new growth is visible.
- Divide summer blooming perennials.
- Water newly planted trees and shrubs if there isn’t enough rainfall.
- Keep weeding.