Home & Garden

The next month will delight gardeners

Yellow wallflowers, orange pansies and white alyssum make a nice combination in containers and beds for early spring as all prosper in cool weather.
Yellow wallflowers, orange pansies and white alyssum make a nice combination in containers and beds for early spring as all prosper in cool weather. McClatchy file photo

April’s just ahead and that means work for home gardeners.

But a lot of this will seem more like pleasure than work. This is especially true on mild days when the sun is shining, the sky is clear blue, the air feels fresh and you have loads of fresh plants and new seeds for beds and containers.

The thought of all this makes me almost wiggle with delight, but not too much since there could be perils on the garden path. Timing is important because the weather can remain a problem well into April. It may be great, but it could be perilous.

The chief peril could be another deep freeze that will further harm tender new growth and even plants set out too early.

So while it is spring, the air and soil are not reliably warm and some care is needed to get things planted at a time they will prosper.

Give your immediate attention to cool-weather vegetables if you have not done so already. Leaf lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage should go into the garden by early April at the latest. These prosper in the cool weeks of spring. While you are setting out these young plants, cross your fingers that it doesn’t get boiling hot in May, which isn’t good for them.

After you’ve given attention to these food crops, snip off spent blooms of daffodils but let the foliage and stems mature naturally to help build flower buds for next year. You can remove them when they turn yellow.

About mid-April, you can start planting or sowing seeds for summer crops such as green beans, melons, corn, cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes. Things really get going then because the air and soil are typically warmer by the day. But the soil and air are probably still too cool for tomatoes and pepper plants. Save them for about late April or even early May if April remains chilly.

Most herbs are hardy and can be planted now with little worry, but basil is a tropical that should wait for warm soil in late April or early May.

Hardy perennials and some of the hardier annuals such as alyssum can go in the ground starting now, and good selections are already showing up in garden centers. Choose for color and variety and try to stretch the season with perennials selected for early summer, mid summer and late summer bloom.

The tender annuals chosen for summer beauty go in during April and May. These include such popular and long-blooming plants as pentas, petunias, angelonia, heliotropes, lantanas and begonias. Use them for beds, pots and baskets. Choose the flowers based on the amount of sun or shade they’ll get. If you plant early, frost could threaten these tender plants, so plan to cover beds and containers with a sheet, anchored with a brick or small rocks.

It is only a month but that’s plenty of time to get all these things done. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.

Ask Nancy

Q. Is it too late to work on my lawn by sowing seeds? I missed doing it in February.

A. Do not do any overall seeding of fescue now. Wait for mid-September to do that. However, if you have some bare spots you want to seed, do so now. Prepare to watch over these areas like a baby, especially when the weather gets hot and water them regularly through the summer.