02 Apr APRIL GARDEN HAPPENINGS
It’s April! Arguably the first “real” month of spring, where you’re either knee-deep in gardening or just seeing the garden come to life after a long winter. To me, April is one of the most exhilarating months in the garden calendar, with new signs of growth at every turn. Refer to this guide for your April gardening activities, always remembering to double-check your area’s recommendations for what and when to plant. And be careful and prepared — April can throw a late season cold snap at you, so be sure to be at the ready to protect your plants!
Zone 3: Gardeners in this zone have plenty to do, both indoors and outdoors, even though the weather is still cold and unpredictable. If you have seed potatoes in cold storage, now’s the time to move them into room temperature to sprout them. Continue your indoor gardening by starting more seeds of corn, squash, and melon to ensure a steady flow of transplants. Outside, if weather allows, go ahead and plant your carrots, parsnips, lettuce, spinach, peas, sweet peas, and onion sets. As the weather warms up, dig compost into your planting beds, fertilize your established lawn areas, and remove the winter protective covering from perennials and roses.
Zone 4: Those wanting a head-start on broccoli and tomato plants can start seeds indoors under grow lights. If you have any perennials that need dividing (I’m looking at you, daylilies and irises), dig them up and carefully separate before replanting them. Keep an eye on the soil temperatures and be ready to plant onions, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and peas when it’s time. Now is the perfect time to plant primroses, lily-of-the-valley, and lilies for vibrant color in the coming months. If you haven’t already planted raspberries, you’ll want to do that quickly, but strawberries need a little extra soil warmth, so hold off on those.
Zone 5: If you love your greens and want a steady supply over the growing season, start more seeds indoors or directly into the garden if the soil is warm enough. Spinach can also be planted now, as well as your early tomatoes. Plant your roses and lilies, and divide your hostas and asters when (you got it!) the soil is warm.
Zone 6: Zone 6-ers are going to have fun this month! If you haven’t prepped your beds yet, get out there and remove any dead plants and add compost to your planting areas. Now you can get busy planting with spinach, potatoes, peas, leafy greens, carrots, turnips, and beets. Dig up and divide those overgrown perennials like asters, phlox, helenium, and chrysanthemums. Once the soil warms, set out transplants of pansies, foxglove, and forget-me-nots, and sow seeds of larkspur, sweet peas and Bachelor’s buttons for charming seasonal color.
Zone 7: If you have any cool season crops left in the ground, mulch around them to keep their roots cool as the temps heat up. Your carrots, chard, and lettuce seedlings may be growing strong and have become a bit crowded — if so, thin them out for better growth. Do you see those broccoli and cabbage plants at the garden center? Yeah, I do, too — resist the temptation to buy them, my friends. The nearing hot weather will do them in. If the weather is warm enough, go ahead and remove any row covers in your garden early in the month.
Zone 8: This is a huge planting month for this zone, so get your shovels out! April is the perfect time to plant those warm season caladiums, callas, and gladiolus, as well as okra, corn, melons, squash, sweet potatoes, and peas (purple hull and black-eyed). If you love herbs as much as I do, plant away! I like to plant basil continuously to keep up with the demand. Tend to your compost pile — add kitchen scraps and grass clippings, moisten it, and turn it regularly. If you see any bare soil in the garden, add a layer of mulch.
Zone 9: Think your zone 8 friends are planting a lot? Wait ’til you see what you can plant. How about pumpkins, melons, squash, bush beans, and sweet corn? And while you’re at it, summer color like petunias, impatiens, wax begonias, iris, coreopsis, yarrow, daisies, bellflowers, and statice are also good planting choices for April. Into sowing seeds? Go to town with marigolds, portulaca, salvias, vinca, sunflowers, and zinnias. And don’t forget to thin the fruit on your fruit trees — this practice keeps the branches from breaking and increases the fruit size. Stay on top of any bug or disease issues you spot, as the warm weather seems to bring out these pesky garden problems.
Zone 10: April is the time to plant any and all heat-loving perennials and annuals, from salvias and coreopsis to gazanias, vincas, gaillardia, and strawflowers. Spinach lovers can plant some Malabar spinach now through August, but be sure to give it plenty of water and a bit of shade. Try planting tropical food crops now — plant malanga and ginger root with ½” cuttings taken from grocery store produce, and chayote, luffa, and Tahitian squash on a trellis or fence for support. Be sure your garden gets adequate watering to set it up for a successful summer season.