April is the month when we think, and hope, that any danger of frost is over for most of the Willamette Valley. There is so much to do in the April garden, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start. Many gardens will have an abundance of color with spring bulbs in bloom as well as many shrubs and flowering trees. If your garden seems to be lacking in color, this is an excellent time to visit other gardens for ideas that can be adapted to your own garden.
Some garden tips for the month.
Spring Bulb Foliage
While it can look unsightly, the foliage on spring bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, etc., should be allowed to die naturally. The foliage provides nutrition for the bulbs to survive the summer and fall months and then reappear in the spring. Often, gardeners will plant annuals around bulbs to help conceal the dying foliage.
Usually by mid-April, the soil begins to warm up enough to plant dahlias. This is where a soil thermometer can be very helpful. The soil temperature should be around 60 degrees F, to plant dahlias directly into the ground. If it is an unusually cool spring, start the tubers in nursery pots indoors and then plant them when the soil temperature is warm enough. Or buy the tubers now, while the selection is good, and plant once soil is warm.
Rejuvenate Planting Mixes Pots
This is an ideal time to rejuvenate the potting mix in containers. If the containers are small, I get rid of all the old and add new. On large containers, I take out about half of the old potting mix and mix in new. The old potting mix can be spread around other plants in the garden.
Most lawns have gone through a tough winter season and this is an excellent time to fertilize. Check the label, but most lawns will need to be watered after a fertilizer has been applied. If there are bare or thin areas, this is a good time to reseed.
Start a Vegetable Garden
While it is too early for many of the popular summer vegetables, there are many of the cool season and early vegetables that can be planted. Seeds are available and most garden centers will carry plant starts of most. Consider vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, leeks, chard, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, just to name a few.
Prune Spring-Flowering Shrubs
If spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, viburnum, early flowering rhododendrons, etc., have finished blooming and need to be pruned or thinned, this is a good time.
Often plants get too large for the space they are in and pruning now will help contain them.
Many hardy perennials are in garden centers now and can be planted. Look for perennial alyssum, phlox, daylilies, hardy salvia, herbs like thyme, chives, parsley, (too early for basil).
Apply Garden Mulch
Most gardens will benefit with a layer of a garden mulch or garden compost applied around plants. This will also help retain moisture during the dry months and having a regular application of mulch or compost will make pulling weeds much easier.
With all of these tasks, remember to enjoy your garden. It is a wonderful stress reliever and also a great way to get some exercise out in the fresh air.