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What To Do In Your Yard and Garden This April (Mid-Spring)

by Cheryl Spencer | Mar 19, 2019 | Maintain Your Garden

As the weather in April grows more gardener-friendly, take advantage of it! Getting some things done now will reduce your workload later when the summer heat sets in.

If you haven’t begun a garden journal, now is a fantastic time to start one. Choose a format that you’ll actually use (paper or electronic). The longer you keep a journal, the more you’ll learn about your garden. It’ll become a prized resource.

April is a busy time in the garden, no question, but this checklist will help you keep on top of things! And you should also check out my April vegetable garden checklist and my April flower garden checklist.

pink flowering tree text reads free april garden checklist

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What to Plant in April

  • Plant containerized roses.
  • Plant new vines.
  • Plant new groundcover plants.
  • Plant new container-grown perennials.
  • Harden off transplants started earlier in spring before planting outdoors – gradually expose the young plants to outdoor conditions of wind, brighter sunlight, and lower moisture.
  • Plant seeds of cool-season vegetables directly in the garden as soon as the soil dries enough to be worked.
  • Start seeds of warm-season vegetables indoors for transplanting later into the garden.
  • When buying bedding plants, choose compact, bushy plants that have not started to flower.
  • Plant new shrubs and trees. With all woody plants, avoid planting too deep.
    • Research indicates that more trees suffer from being planted too deep in the hole than any other problem.
      Dig a hole that’s shallow and 2-3 times the width of the root ball.
    • Don’t add organic matter to the soil when planting trees. It doesn’t help the plant become established, and it creates conditions that encourage the roots to stay inside the planting hole instead of spreading through the surrounding soil.
    • Plant the root ball 1-2 inches above soil grade. Taper the soil away from the trunk back to ground level. Don’t put mulch over the root ball until the tree is established (1 year later).
    • Don’t fertilize newly planted trees or shrubs. Wait one year before fertilizing.
  • Shrubs and trees best planted or transplanted in spring, rather than fall, include butterfly bush, dogwood, rose of Sharon, black gum (Nyssa), vitex, redbud, magnolia, tulip poplar, birch, ginkgo, hawthorn, and most oaks.

April Garden Maintenance Chores

  • Clean up the garden to get ready for the season ahead. Remove last year’s dead plants and rake back extra mulch you applied last year to protect plants over the winter. Shred and compost everything except diseased plants.
  • Evergreen and deciduous hedges may be sheared. Prune the top narrower than the base so sunlight will reach the lower limbs.
  • Remove tree wraps from young trees.
  • Prune off Viburnum-beetle egg cases before the larvae hatch.
  • If it was too cold to do so last month, remove winter covers from bush, climbing and tree roses.
  • Remove winter covers from any plants that are marginally hardy in your area.
  • Stake floppy rose growth and tie up climbers.
  • Complete pruning chores on trees and shrubs– remove dead and injured branches first.
  • Prune spring blooming shrubs (those that bloom before June) such as forsythia and spirea after they have completed flowering.
  • Trim groundcovers to remove winter burn and tidy plants up.
  • Repair support trellises as needed.
  • Replace any plant labels that have deteriorated.
  • Water your garden if your soil is dry.
  • Protect tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures.
  • Divide ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge
  • Apply chelated iron (FeEDDHA) to plants with prior problems with Iron Chlorosis. And avoid overwatering in the spring. This is the most common cause of chlorotic plants in the spring.
  • Check sprinkler systems for leaks, clean filters, fix and align heads
  • Remove finished compost from the bottom of the heap to make room for incoming debris.
  • Add mulch to your gardens if it’s getting thin.
  • WEED! Small, newly emerging weeds are easier to remove, and if you keep on top of the weeds through June, the rest of the season will be much more manageable.

Garden Planning and Journaling in April

  • Start keeping track of your weekly rainfall. Measure the rainfall with a rain gauge so you can tell when to water. Your garden needs about one inch of water per week from April to September.
  • Watch for pests and diseases. Make a note of what happens and when.
  • Plan container plantings for decks, patio, and other places.
  • Look for gaps in your landscape that could be nicely filled with bulbs. Take photos of these areas and make a note to order bulbs in August.
  • Start a naturalist’s notebook: Keep a journal of nature observations, and create a record of nature in your garden.

Lawn Care Schedule for April

  • Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to control crabgrass in lawns. The exact timing varies each year with weather conditions. For a precise application timing based on Growing Degree Days (GDD), visit Michigan State University’s GDTracker. Enter your zip code and select “Crabgrass PRE.” The target GDD window for crabgrass prevention is 250-500. For severe problems, a second application might be necessary in early June. Wait about eight weeks before re-seeding any areas where you spread crabgrass pre-emergent.
  • Over-seed sparse areas in lawns, but don’t apply crabgrass pre-emergent to these areas.
  • If you didn’t do so last month, stock up on lawn fertilizer for the season. Even though the bulk of the fertilizer you feed your lawn should be applied in the fall, this is the time of year to purchase fertilizer.
  • Remove sticks, rocks and other debris from your lawn to prevent damaging your lawnmower or injuring yourself when mowing.
  • Start mowing cool-season grasses at recommended heights. Check with your cooperative extension for the correct mowing heights.

Wildlife in Your April Garden

  • Put a birdhouse or two in your garden to attract insect-eating friends, if you didn’t do this in March.
  • Take advantage of spring planting time to add bird-friendly plantings to your yard. Plant groups of shrubs in your yard to break up big open spaces. Provide cover for birds with deciduous trees. Add “corridor” plantings that allow birds to safely travel through your yard by flying from plant to plant.
  • Plan to plant a hummingbird garden, if they frequent your area. The first scouts will show up soon!
  • Watch for bats at dusk (if you have them where you live). They’re important insect predators.

April Houseplant Care

  • Apply fertilizer to houseplants according to label directions as days grow brighter and longer and new growth begins.
  • Continue to bring houseplants inside at night but outside during warm days. Most houseplants can remain outside when night temperatures are consistently 40 to 50 degrees. When in doubt, wait until after your last frost before placing houseplants permanently in the garden.
  • If orchids have finished flowering, begin to fertilize regularly with a very dilute orchid fertilizer with every watering. Monitor them closely for scale.

HI! I’M CHERYL.

Cheryl Spencer

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