We’ve had April weather in February, May weather in March and today April feels like blustery March with that cold wind and potential frost tonight. So what’s a gardener to do?
Preparation is the word of the month. Get those summer beds weeded and composted, fertilize, nurture your indoor seedlings. The weather is unpredictable but being prepared will give you the best outcome.
This list of chores is adapted from The Mountain Gardener, a newsletter put out by the Buncombe County Master Gardeners program, part of NC Extension. Each month they include a list specific to western NC.
• Didn’t get the lawn fertilizer out on time? Wait until September. Nitrogen applied this late is an invitation for brown patch fungus disease in June.
• It’s growing so fast with all this rain, the lawn can get out of hand quickly. Maintain mowing height for fescue lawns at 3 to 3 1/2 inches.
• It is too late to expect good results from applying crabgrass preventer now. Much of the seed has already begun to germinate.
• April is a great time to plant shrubs and perennials. Keep them watered this summer.
• Do not plant frost-tender annuals before May unless you will be able to cover them in case of frost.
• Ample early spring moisture has produced plenty of weeds. Pull them before they get too tough or go to seed.
• As soon as spring blooming shrubs have finished blooming, it’s time to prune if they have gotten too large.
• Many perennials can be divided now—hostas, Japanese anemone, black-eyed-Susan, yarrow, chrysanthemums, etc.
• If you want to relocate daffodils, it is okay to dig them after they have bloomed. Do not remove leaves. Replant them as you would any other transplant and leave the leaves to die down on their own.
• Renovate house plants. This is a good time to repot and cut them back as needed.
• Plant your new fruit crops.
• If you did not get fruit trees pruned in March, it is better to prune late than to miss a year of pruning.
• Fertilize fruit trees, blueberries, grape vines, and brambles. Chuck Marsh of Useful Plants Nursery recommends “a balanced blended organic fertilizer for most of the plants we grow – something like Fertrell 5-5-3, Harmony, or PlantTone works well and is readily available from Fifth Season Garden Supply in Asheville and other suppliers of organic gardening products. See the package for recommended amounts. For blueberries and other acid-loving plants, we recommend HollyTone, coffee grounds, or cottonseed meal.”
• Strawberries are early this year, many already have berries on them. You might want to have row cover fabric handy in case you need to protect the blooms from a late frost.
• Consider growing some vegetables in containers. This is often a good option if the only sunny space you have is the deck or patio.
• You can still plant potatoes as well as plant seeds for lettuce, beets and leafy greens.
• Set out transplants for cool season crops such as cabbage, broccoli, lettuce. Make sure they are hardened off before planting into the garden.
• Have row cover fabric handy if frost sensitive crops are planted before May 10 (in Asheville).
• Perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender can be planted later in the month.
• Start your nightshades indoors if you haven’t already – peppers, tomatoes, eggplants. Give them high quality potting soil and bottom warmth if you can. They should be about 6″ tall when it’s time to plant them outdoors in May.
• Add ornamental features to the entry, patio or garden with container gardens. Select
plant combinations according to the sun or shade in the intended location.
• It’s not too late to build a lasagna style, no till bed for your summer veggies.
• Give your wildlife some attention. Clean up the bird feeders. Consider building or buying a bat box or a mason bee house. Invite in the beneficials!