April is Ideal Month to Jumpstart Your Garden

Spring isn't just a time for cleaning out your garage. Get your garden ready before the weather turns hot, and it'll be no sweat!

By Tina Jepson

 

April is the ideal month to get your garden ready for the upcoming season.

 

What's best part about digging around in the soil over the next few weeks? The weather! Mornings and evenings are inevitably cool, but that peak afternoon sun helps bring the air temperature up. We all know that the heat and humidity are well on their way, so make it easy on yourself to do some of the heavy lifting early on in the season. You won’t regret it!

 

As the adage goes, "April showers bring May flowers." However, if you really want your May flowers to look great, you’re going to need to put some effort into it. Here are six April gardening tips to help you prepare for a summer bounty.

 

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Make Compost

Creating your own compost is cheap and worthwhile. Plus, it doesn’t take too much effort to create a gardener’s “black gold.”

 

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If you’re new to composting, start small with a plastic kitchen pail and a backyard tumbler. Collect everything from coffee grinds to egg shells, and veggie waste, then add it to your kitchen pail. When it’s full, take it outside and toss it into the tumbler. After a few weeks, all that kitchen garbage will transform into your garden’s lifeblood.

 

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2. Purchase and Start Your Seeds

Don’t make the mistake of starting your flower and edible plant seeds too late in the season. Your best bet is to plant them in potting soil or round peat pellets 6-8 weeks before the last frost. This will ensure they are the perfect size to transplant once the weather warms up. 

 

There are some plants/seeds you can immediately start outside in the early spring. These include lettuces, root vegetables (leeks, carrots, and onions), and even corn and broccoli.

 

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Pro Tip: Even master gardeners refer to seed packet instructions to determine the right date for planting. Before you get ahead of yourself, check the specifics for each variety you purchase.

 

3. Prep the Soil

Flowers, shrubs, fruits, veggies and other garden elements all need the healthiest soil they can get to grow large and produce the most color and fruit.

 

Garden Beds: Till the soil of your raised garden beds, removing all the weeds, rocks, branches, and any other debris that accumulated over the cold winter months. Then, incorporate 2-3 inches of your homemade “black gold” (compost) or another organic fertilizer, such as water-soluble blood meal or bone meal.

 

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Landscaping Beds: Avoid allowing early spring weeds to pop into your landscape beds by removing them promptly. Then, cover your soil with wet newspaper or landscape fabric and use a mulch made of pine straw, small gravel, or wood to help maintain healthy soil and plants. Next, incorporate a fertilizer mix (5-5-5 or 6-6-6) to keep your plants happy and healthy as they bloom and grow in the upcoming months.

 

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4. Know the Last Frost Date

The last frost date dictates almost everything you do in the garden. To determine your last frost date, head to Dave’s Garden website and enter your zip code. 

 

Remember, most garden plants should not be planted before this date due to the risk of frost or freezing.

 

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5. Pay Attention to the Weather

Even after the last frost date arrives, pay close attention to the nightly weather forecast and cover plants with plastic if necessary. For fruit trees, place a blanket or sheet to protect frost-susceptible buds.  

 

Also, take note of rainfall to ensure your plants are getting enough water. If you don’t have a water gauge in your backyard, check your local news station’s weather report. The number you’re looking for is 1 inch. Anything less and you should be supplementing with water from your garden hose.

 

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6. Trim and Fertilize Bulbs

Depending on where you live, your daffodils and tulips may have just bloomed or are already finished for the season. As soon as the flowers begin to wilt, cut them off so the plant isn’t expending tons of energy on a dying bloom. Then, fertilize your bulbs using bulb fertilizer. 

 

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Spend some time outside over the next few weeks preparing your garden for the upcoming summer months. There’s no better time than April to be outside enjoying all your yard has to offer while getting a head start on your garden!