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Garden Tasks for April

Get a good start on the growing season with this gardener's to-do list for April.

Early April GardenIs April the garden’s busiest month? Suddenly, there’s so much to do, like start putting a garden in. Many websites put up monthly task lists, often suited to their specific region. Here’s some April gardening tips and chores that have served this gardener well over the years.

Fertilize fall-planted garlic with a high-nitrogen source, like blood meal or bat guano. Got onion sets that over-wintered? Now’s the time to start hitting them with nitrogen boosts, maybe fish fertilizer, periodically until their tops go soft and wilt in the coming summer.

Sow early spring greens, including leaf lettuce and spinach for early season harvest. Now’s the time to plant asparagus crowns for years of returns.

“The most efficient way to keep plants protected from freezing weather.” Wall O Waters enable organic gardeners to start tomatoes, peppers, squash or other plants 6-8 weeks earlier, without fear of freezing. Plants will be healthier and produce up to twice the fruit 30-40 days earlier. Protects down to 16°F.

Turn and aerate compost piles. Screen any compost you’ll be applying in the next few weeks so that it will be ready when you need it.

Go after lawn pests: Grubs of various sorts (like those of the Japanese beetle) and sod webworms take advantage of spring to feed near the surface. Now’s the time to inspect your lawn for dead and fading patches or soft spongy areas where grubs may have destroyed the turf’s roots. You might spot the grubs themselves. Hit them with an Organic Materials Review Institute-listed spray while they’re vulnerable. Have chickens? Before spraying, turn them loose –with supervision, of course.

Practice patience: Still waiting for spring to… well, spring? Be patient. Don’t start working your garden before the soil is ready to avoid compaction. Monitor those soil temperatures for proper germination temperatures for particular seed with a soil thermometer.

Fruit trees: Spring pruning of fruit trees is best done early. If you’re going to spray trees with a horticultural oil — now’s the time– use one that has negligible toxicity and degrades quickly in the environment.

Plant shrubs and root stock: In his very thorough list, Horticultural Guy suggests you avoid bare root stock if planning to plant strawberries or woody fruits like grapes and raspberries. Instead, buy them in containers. He also suggests you up the water and fertilizer as your indoor plants gets more window light. Spring is the time for growth, even indoors.

Protect seedlings: Oregon State University has a comprehensive list of tasks applicable to its state’s widely diverse conditions. We tend to agree with them that now’s the time to keep cabbage maggots, leafminers, and other pests that might follow warm weather into your garden off your seedlings with floating row covers.

Now or never: A Way To Garden has a list of several “now-or-never” April chores that includes adjusting soil conditions around daffodils that aren’t producing as you’d like, and remembering to check yourself for ticks each time you come in from working in the landscape. (Margaret Roach, the serene and knowledgeable presence behind the site, gardens in upstate New York).

Enjoy tulips, if you have them. Enjoy daffodils if it’s too early in your area for tulips. Crocus, maybe? Whatever it is, Spring is a time to enjoy your gardens, especially after much hard work.

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