This has certainly been a different year, weather-wise. But then, last year was too…in the reverse. The winter of 2016 was very mild so plants were roughly 2 – 3 weeks ahead of normal. This year, they are more like 3 weeks behind. Mind you, the plants do “go gang busters” whenever there is some sun and warmer temperatures.

However, the extended forecast for April is filled with slightly cooler temperatures than normal and more precipitation. Keep a weather eye because some outdoor chores may need tweaking this month.


In the garden:

  • If you did not need to divide those spreading late-flowering perennials…phlox, crocosmia, shasta daisies, artemisia (mugwort)…this year, check to make sure they are not spreading into other perennial clumps nearby.
  • Spread lime and fertilizer on your lawn this month.
  • Rhodos and azaleas benefit from a sprinkling of nitrogen and magnesium around their drip line right now…especially those shrubs which are looking a little sickly. (Coffee grounds and Epsom salts are good sources of nitrogen and magnesium sulfate respectively.)
  • Prune out the spent flowering shoots on those rhodos which have flowered early. Do this as soon as possible…before new leaf growth appears…to make the chore easier.
  • Still time to plant fruit trees.
  • Get those summer-flowering bulbs in the ground now.
  • Time to plant up the hanging baskets and any window boxes or pots of annuals you wish to have around the house and garden. It is still dicey, weather-wise, for having them outside just yet so keep them under cover in an open garage, under an adequate overhang or in the greenhouse.
  • Slugs and snails are still an issue. Keep a watchful eye! Deal with them in whatever manner works for you, but always be mindful your choice is not harmful to children, pets, or birds.
  • Keep up with the weeding.


In the vegetable garden:

  • Check out Seeds to start in May in Garden Info & Tips under In the Garden on the menu bar (or click here) to see what varieties you can sow this month and when.
  • Thin lettuce, arugula, corn salad, mustard, and beet rows for baby greens.
  • Hill potatoes and leeks as the plants grow to keep the light away from young spuds and to produce nice white stalks on leeks.
  • Established asparagus plants will be ready to harvest soon. If you have just put in one year old plants, do not harvest anything this year. They need a whole year to set down good roots for a long productive life. (Up to 25 or 30 years for most varieties and cultivars.)
  • First couple of weeks of May is still too early, in our region, to transplant out tender vegetables…tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squashes, and melons. Check the Air & Soil Temperature Chart for the preferred overnight temperatures for these vegetables. (Quick link to chart here.)


In the greenhouse:

  • If you didn’t give the greenhouse a good cleaning from top to bottom last month, do it now! Before you start putting transplants in the ground.
  • Amend all raised planting beds with fresh compost and well-aged manure.


In the compost pile:

  • Keep turning that pile. The more air you can get into the pile, the faster it will break down into rich, humousy soil admendment. This is a wonderful mulch for your garden beds but screen it first.
  • If April showers are in the monthly forecast, keep the pile covered so precious nutrients will not leach out.


In the tool shed:

  • Be sure to clean your tools at the end of the day…especially your pruning tools. These should be disinfected with a 10% bleach solution to prevent any chance of spreading diseases from plant to plant. I keep a small spray bottle of diluted bleach in my tool basket to spray my secateurs blades regularly while pruning.



  • Keep checking your over-wintered tender perennials. Remove any leaves that are decaying and inspect plants carefully for aphids or other pests or disease.
  • Divide any which have grown too big for their pot, or move them up one size.
  • Repot any which need to have their soil refreshed…or their roots pruned. Root pruning is one way of keeping a special plant, or a tender plant not suitable for your gardening zone in a pot indefinitely.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Some of the hardier of your tender perennials may be able to move outdoors towards the end of the month.



Posted on May 13, 2017