From Mélie’s Garden
The month of April is the real beginning of the gardening season. It may still feel cold, but there are tons of chores to do when it is warm enough to work outside.
First of all, clean up gardens by removing dead foliage and weeds that are sprouting. And take off any winter mulch, like Christmas tree branches or salt hay, so the soil warms up.
In the vegetable garden, I put down black plastic or EPDM Fabric to heat up the soil before planting. Soil needs to be above 60 degrees for seeds to germinate and the black plastic will speed up the process, according to Tom Stearns at High Mowing Organic Seeds. He top dresses his beds with organic fertilizer or compost and then puts down the plastic. Plant cool weather crops first like Peas, Spinach, Lettuce, Beets, Swiss Chard and Sweet Peas. Once the soil is above 60 degrees and there is no more threat of frost you can plant seeds and seedlings.
Tomato plants can be started indoors on Tax Day, April 15th and should be transplanted outside after the last frost. I put my plants in “Tomato Teepees” filled with water for the first month in the garden. This protects the young tomato plants from the wind on Fishers Island. The “teepees” can be removed in mid June. You can buy them from Park Seed.
In April, I spray a copper fungicide like Bonide on my emerging peonies to prevent Botrytis and then put peony cages around the plants before they get too big. I try to give a second spray of fungicide in mid May.
Once the Forsythia blooms, I prune my rose bushes back to green wood and fertilize each plant with one tablespoon of Epsom salts and a cup of organic fertilizer. And do the same in May.
Acid loving plants, like Hydrangea, Holly, Rhododendrons, Andromeda and Boxwood can be top dressed with Hollytone, so it can sink in during spring rain. Aluminum Sulfate can also be put down around Hydrangeas to encourage bluer blooms.
April is also a good time to prune Boxwood, but prune flowering shrubs like Forsythia, Viburnum, Azalea and Lilac two weeks after they bloom later in the spring.
And finally, April is a good time to test your soil to see if it is the correct balance, this is especially important for vegetable gardens. The University of Connecticut has prepaid soil testing collection kits at the New London County Extension Center you can contact them at 860 887-1608, but do it ASAP because if you need to add to your soil, it should be done well before planting time.