Although these sunny April days with temperatures in the 60’s and low 70’s make us want to plant, plant, plant, the risk of cold temperatures and frost even into May is real. The general planting date for this area is May 15, but there is plenty to do until then.
- Work up your garden soil to be ready for May planting, but be careful: soil needs to be well-drained and loose; crumbly in your hand. Working wet soil will result in large hard clumps that you will be dealing with for weeks, if not months to come. If squeezing a handful of soil breaks apart easily, it’s ready to be worked. If, however, you are left with a compact clump, it’s too soon.
- Now that the days ahead are climbing to 50 degrees and higher, clean beds to remove excess leaves and other debris for those early summer plants to pop up. Until now, standing stalks of dead plants and flower heads are where pollinators have sought shelter, and layers of leaf litter that collect have protected larvae, egg masses, hibernating wild bees, dormant spiders and many other beneficial insects.
- If you plan to make any new beds, now is the time, but remember, don’t work up new beds when the soil is too wet.
- Now’s the time to tune up your lawn mower. That brown lawn will turn green practically overnight and will soon be ready for its first mowing. Sharpen blades, clean/replace spark plugs, air filters, etc.
- If you haven’t already done so, make sure your garden tools (clippers, trowels, etc.) are ready to go. Consider treating yourself to a new tool that you’ve been wanting.
- If you’ve planted seeds inside, continue to water regularly, and thin as needed. As soon as the plants have their first set of ‘true leaves,’ move the seedlings up to larger containers (one-quart yogurt or sour cream containers with holes punched in the bottom work well).
- Cold weather plants can be sowed/planted directly in the garden now (assuming your soil is ready) including, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard.
- Prune any dormant trees or non-flowering shrubs; you can also prune summer and fall flowering shrubs before they set buds.
- Uncover any roses you may have winterized and cut back new growth to about 2”. Treat any blackspot you see with a fungicide.
- If you haven’t already, cut back ornamental grasses. Ideally, these should be cut to the ground before the spring growth emerges.
Sometimes the call of warm April days is hard to resist. But remember, it’s not just warm sunny days that plants need, it’s warm nights and soil, too. For now, be content to enjoy those spring bulbs that are popping out. But if you just can’t resist, put out only as many plants as you are willing to cover up if it does frost. Or better yet, plant in containers that can be moved into the garage! May 15 will be here before we know it….Happy Gardening!
Rosamary Amiet is a Licking County Master Gardener volunteer
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