April Gardening Bliss: Pruning & Prepping
Writer: Carrie Petty
April bring us 30 days of pure gardening heaven, you know why? Because you are in the honeymoon phase, with dreams of all the good things to come, and let’s face it — we are all glad winter is almost over. Brutal! But you must proceed with a bit of gardener’s cautions, our last hard frost date in the area is always around May 15. I plant like a seasoned gambler, keeping lots of old sheets on standby for frost protection.
If there is one thing you will do in the garden this month is work your tail off! Get outside and clean up that winter debris all over the ground and begin to uncover the little green spouts that are underneath all the months of brown. There are many good things to be found in the garden and even some spring blooms. Bulbs will begin to emerge and the buds on most blooming trees and bushes will begin to swell. I fertilize absolutely everything in the month of April. You can get a jump-start on all the spring chores this month, giving you more time to enjoy May and June.
Pruning trees and bushes is a perfect first garden chore. Just be sure not to prune early flowering varieties. Like, Fortyish, Azalea, Rhododendron, Lilac, Dogwood trees or Redbud trees until AFTER they bloom. They all bloom on “old wood” or last season’s growth. You do not want to cut off your blooms.
I love the Fiskars line of pruning tools. Sharp and clean blades are a must. And make sure when you make a cut, to make it 0.25 inches above a “bud union” (That place where you see a swell in the branch) and always cut at an angle to allow rainwater to run off the freshly cut opening, so not to cause rot and disease. Then I add a little 10-10-10 granular fertilizer to the base of the tree and make sure there is no mulch touching the base of the trunk.
Pruning does a couple of things. It helps to encourage new growth. It cuts out any dead or broken branches, and, most importantly, it maintains the shape of the plant. It is a wonderful way to get up close and personal with your trees and bushes, to really observe closely the branching order of things and make a few adjustments. Just like people, we all need a little pruning!
For us, May 15 is ‘go time.’ That is the date when you can safely plant your annuals in the ground or sow seeds directly into the soil without the fear of a hard frost. So think of it this way, April is for prepping and May is for planting. But like I said, I am a bit of a rebel, and I start much earlier, and if a threat presents itself, I just cover up what I have put down.
Flowers bring extra beauty and happiness into our world, and the best kind of flowering plant is the kind that keeps coming back year after year. I have an entire garden bed dedicated to my favorite — The Perennial. Growing Perennials are one of the easiest ways to garden.
I have more than 40 varieties of perennials in my yard, I just love them because they give me a great ‘cutting’ selection all growing season long in which to make beautiful floral arrangements. Because for me, in the summer months, entertaining and gardening life go hand in hand.
DIVIDING PERENNIALS IS SIMPLE, REALLY:
Take your garden spade and dig around the plant and push the spade down under the root ball, then lift up. Keep repeating until you can lift the entire plant out of the ground. Then, take a dividing tool, or two garden pitch forks and work your way through the center of the plant, making new little plant starts. Keep greens and root connected in large chunks of divisions and you will have great success. Now, plant. Just like any new nursery purchase. Dig your hole and plant your new division, be sure to keep the top of the root ball flush with the top of your newly dug hole. Press soil in around the new plant and water in well. You are good to go!
It is all part of helping you, “Grow a Beautiful Life!”
April Garden Chores
- Go for a walk in the woods to view the spring flowers blooming.
- Fill your containers with pansies before annuals arrive in May.
- Give your home a deep clean.
- Fill your water features after a good cleaning.
- Weed, edge, mulch…repeat.
- Get hoses out of storage and turn on outside spigots.
- Toss out any old tools, hoses and gardening pots. Not worth the effort.
- Make new plants by dividing big clumps of perennials.
- Feed lawns, weed application and mow.
- Continue sowing seeds indoors.
- Divide early blooming bulbs and replant.
- Feed roses.
- Spray fruit trees.
- Wash garden furniture.
- Power wash and stain deck.
- Be prepared for hard freezes and frost with extra bed sheets for coverage.
- Enjoy the month and begin entertaining outdoors!