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Garden Tips for April

April Tips

excerpted from UMass Extension "Garden Clippings"

SOIL
1) Begin turning over garden soils when soil is workable and not too wet. To tell when that time has come, pick up a handful of soil and squeeze. It should crumble apart in your hand with gentle prodding. Work organic matter and nutrients into the soil ( compost,  bone meal,  5-10-5 or 5-10-5, and  lime).

2) Before seeding bare patches in the lawn, loosen the soil with a garden rake. Do any spring seeding as early as possible to give grass plants a chance to get established before hot dry weather begins.

VEGETABLES
1) Start seeds of tomatoes early in April so they'll be ready by mid to late May for transplanting into the garden.

2) Sow seeds of peas, root crops, and leafy vegetable whenever weather conditions allow over the next few weeks. Plant an assortment of salad greens. Plant greens in blocks rather than rows for more efficient use of garden space and cut leaves as needed rather than pulling up entire plants. NOTE: Woodland Gardens will have seedlings of spring crops ready by mid April, if you don't want to plant seeds.

3) If sowing very small vegetable seeds, mix them with sand to make it easier.

4) At the end of the month, sow seeds of vine crops, including cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and squash in peat pots. Start them indoors or in a cold frame where they can be protected from frost until ready to transplant to the garden.

FLOWERS
1) Loosen the soil, apply a little fertilizer, and then direct seed annual flowers in their own beds, or in empty spots between perennials. Some annuals to direct seed now are bachelor's button, calendula, annual pinks, poppy, and phlox.

2) Rake away old foliage from iris and dispose of it. Eggs of the iris borer overwinter on this old foliage and you must get rid of the debris now before the eggs hatch.

TREES
1) Plant trees and shrubs now. Look for pest-resistant varieties, as well as those with multi-season interest. Summersweet, stewartia, witch hazel, itea, and halesia offer both pest-resistance as well as multiple season interest.

2) Be on the lookout for tent caterpillars hatching on crabapple, apple, and cherry trees. If you see small larvae, apply the biological control (B.t. – Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) or Sevin.

3) Thin out some of the crowded branches of dense lilacs to improve air movement through the plants. Be careful not to apply too much high nitrogen or excessive amounts of horse or cow manure. Too much fertilizer and dense branching promote bacterial blight – a serious disease of lilac, which often occurs during wet spring weather.