April Garden Chores

by Gail Cocker, Master Gardener, SCMG

For Canadian Hardiness Zones 4 and 5

They say “April showers bring May flowers”, which is great, except for all the mud around here!  This is the month to get a bit of head start on some of your garden tidy up… but beware of walking on wet soil.  Either put some stepping stones or plywood down to reduce compacting your soil/lawn or wait for things to dry up.

April “To Do’s”;

  • Once the temperature is above 5 degrees, dormant spray for fruit trees before spring growth begins
  • Pick up sticks and branches while you survey your yard, make note of any tree limbs that need to be removed or cabled.  Hire an arborist if necessary.
  • Sweep and tidy your hardscaped areas
  • Mulch around shrubs
  • Remove bark guards from trees
  • Gently press frost heaved plants back into the soil
  • Resist the urge to uncover spring flowering bulbs too early– they will push through the debris and will benefit from protection during this variable and inconsistent season
  • Top dress gardens with 1-2” of compost or humus, before bulbs start to emerge and before you plant seeds
  • If you left your ornamental grasses intact last fall, go ahead and prune them back to 6-8”.  Easier to prune ferns before the new fronds emerge. Clip off tattered leaves of hellebores and epimediums, any perennials that bloom with the first breath of spring
  • Remove dead and damaged branches from woody plants.  If in doubt, you don’t have to prune a shrub.  You prune to improve flowering and fruiting, to improve the plant’s shape or to rejuvenate an overgrown shrub
  • Thin and trim summer blooming shrubs that bloom on new wood; Butterfly bush, Diervilla, Smooth or Panicle hydrangea, Potentilla, Rose of Sharon, most roses
  • Depending on the weather, plant cool hardy vegetables such as peas, spinach and lettuce.  Sweet peas and calendula can be direct sown in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked
  • Rake the lawn if not too wet