Garden Guide: Do these garden chores in April for beautiful plants all season long

April is National Gardening Month, and if you do these chores now, you’ll be set for the rest of the season.

Alex Calamia

Apr 10, 2024, 12:45 PM

Updated 40 days ago


April warms up faster than any other month of the year. It’s a great idea to tackle garden chores early in the month so plants can take advantage of all your hard work and deliver epic results!
Clean up yard debris
It’s important to leave leaf litter and debris over the winter to give beneficial insects a place to hibernate, and to keep the soil a bit warmer. Now that the weather is warming up, you can clean these spots up. I use fruit trees (like my apple trees) as a rule of thumb. When they are in bloom, I know the pollinators are all back out. That usually happens in mid-April.
It’s time to fertilize.
The best time to add nutrients to your soil is right as plants are beginning to show active signs of growth. Fertilizer usually is labeled with three numbers that represent the amount of Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. A high first number (nitrogen) will activate lush growth. A high second number (phosphorus) is a great choice for flowering plants. Choose fertilizers formulated for acid loving plants to give azaleas, rhododendron, camellia, and holly a boost.
Fertilizers usually come in granular form (as pellets) or liquid form. In most cases, the granular fertilizers are ideal for landscape plants. These release nutrients slowly. Just scrape the powder into the soil around the drip line. Liquid fertilizers are great for annuals that need quick access to nutrients.
A word of caution: less is more when it comes to fertilizer. Most plants in the ground don’t need fertilizer to thrive and too much fertilizer can burn your plants. Fertilizer contains mineral salt which can damage plant structures in high concentrations.
Choose fertilizers carefully. Some types can kill microbes in the soil that help plants absorb nutrients and contaminate the environment.
When to prune?
Pruning is a great way to clean up shrubs and encourage new growth. Now is the right time to prune dormant shrubs that are just starting to show signs of growth. Ideally, prune back no more than 1/3 of the way back and leave emerging growth nodes on the stem to ensure lush new growth.
Some plants should not be pruned now, like mop-head hydrangea and any spring blooming shrubs (like rhododendrons). These plants develop flower buds in the autumn or just as new growth appears in the spring. Cutting back now will cut off these blooms. It’s best to prune these right after the blooms finish up in early summer.
It’s time to mulch (soon!)
Early April is a little early to lay mulch down. Perennials are still emerging and mulch could make it difficult for them to sprout. Mulch also cools the soil down during a time of the year. That’s a benefit in the summer, but a recipe for fungal issues during our rainy and chilly spring weather. It’s best to wait until late April or early May to lay mulch, after most of the trees have shed their petals.

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