Is it Spring yet? Often times I feel overwhelmed by April. I feel like every April qualifies as the most unsettled weather month on my calendar. But April should be amazing right? It is the month that I have spent all winter waiting for and as usual, now that it has arrived – I PANIC. Rake the lawn! Cleanup the beds! Prune the shrubs! Sow my seed! Divide my perennials! Transplant my cold crop vegetables! Fertilize everything! Mulch and then mulch some more! It’s all just chaos! Frantic is the best adjective to describe me right now. But I know there is hope if I adopt a “strategic” attitude! I know being strategic about my work load will get me a lot farther, faster and that’s critical in the face of April’s heroic list of garden chores. Let’s start with a strategic 10 steps that I try to stick to, as I get started erasing winter’s havoc.
10 steps might seem like a lot, but If it’s any consolation, I’ll be doing the same work I’ve advised for you. Yes, even my little yard of benign neglect requires a good spring cleaning! I remind myself that my dad always said preparation was 90% any successful project and to enjoy my yard this summer I need to get out there this spring – plus I’ve fortified myself with way too many Girl Scout Cookies and need to work them off somehow!
1) Start cleanups near the house. Tidying beds along the most-traveled front walkway first reminds me that I can do this, a little at a time. Walking past a mess every time I go out:is not so inspiring. Work out from homebase.
2) First things first. In the edible garden, why prep the tomato row when you haven’t even planted the peas or spinach? “Spot clean” key areas, so earliest crops can get planted, then double back later if other “must” extra-early chores are still undone.
Similarly: Gently remove matted leaves to uncover early spring ornamentals first, such as spring bulbs and strawberries, even if you can’t stop to clean the whole bed. Start cutbacks by trimming battered leaves from semi-evergreen perennials, such as hellebores and epimedium and iberis. Mine all took a beating this winter and will need a very hard pruning. Now is also the time to cut back your ornamental grasses.
3) Make space in the compost heap for incoming debris you’ll be generating fast. Extract (and preferably screen) finished material from the bottom to topdress beds as you clean them. I try to get a 2 inch topdress down in all of my perennial beds as early as possible.
4) Fertilize everything! Use an organic like Espoma Plant Tone for your perennial and shrub beds and Holly Tone for your evergreens. It’s much easier to get the fertilizer down as you finish cleaning out each bed. Do it before you mulch for the best results.
5) Order mulch now, preferably a bulk delivery—skipping all those plastic bags! The added advantage to ordering early is having a big pile of mulch motivating you to move it out of the driveway! A good 2 to 3 inches of mulch will help keep weeds to a minimum, will moderate soil temperature and keep roots cooler in the heat of summer helping to prevent stress and most importantly will cut down on soil moisture loss reducing how much you will need to water.
6) Muck out water gardens and fountains – ick and more ick – but it’s a must do! Cleaning ponds will avoid buildup of debris that can feed algae development and taint water. Remove and store your floating de-icers.
7) Once all the snow is off the lawn and the soil has had a chance to dry out, rake up all the winter debris and thatch. Now is the time to lime and fertilize and April is the best month to apply crabgrass controls. We offer both organic and traditional control products and can help you decide which is best for you.
8) While doing all this: Never walk, or work, in mucky or wet soil. I stay off soft and also semi-frozen lawns too, delaying some chores (yes, this item is a bonus because I just gave you an excuse to not do something!). I can do the tasks in another week, but I can’t easily fix soil turned to concrete by having been walked on, tilled or worked when wet.
9) Treat yourself to a little color—again, for encouragement. I like big bowls of pansies or violas to cheer me on in April, because this list can feel daunting. Don’t leave them outside when night temperatures fall below 30 degrees! Even though they won’t die their foliage will turn black and the roots will die back – causing very slow growth and delay of blooms!
10) Keep watering and caring for your Easter Bulbs just like you would a regular houseplant. After they have finished flowering wait until the foliage turns brown before cutting it off. The foliage is needed to produce food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s blooms. The process of forcing bulbs does weaken them and if you plant plant them out in the garden, you probably won’t see flowers for the first year.
All our Best!
Michelle and Team Lakeview