Spring — however capricious it may be — has arrived, and it’s time to head back outdoors, keeping an eye on the weather. Gardeners in Middle Tennessee, Zone 7a, where The Garden Bench calls home, are anxious to get the season started. Warmer areas are already in full swing; if it’s cooler where you are, it’s getting close!
Here’s what’s on your garden to-do list for April.
Early this month
Did your hardy herbs survive winter? Trim dead foliage of sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and other cold-damaged herbs. Replant those that didn’t make it through the freezing weather.
Trees and shrubs planted in spring need plenty of water during the first year of growth, especially as the weather gets warmer.
Set out hummingbird feeders to welcome the birds back to your garden. Hummingbird nectar recipe: one part sugar to four parts water. It’s not necessary to use red food coloring.
Plant your favorite herbs: parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary can be planted early in the month. Basil and dill are more tender herbs, so wait a bit longer to be sure the weather is warm enough.
To have a big display of flowers in summer, sow seeds and plant summer-flowering bulbs in April: zinnias, sunflowers, cleome, cosmos and other summertime favorites.
Get rid of weeds while they’re small and easy to pull. Use mulch to keep weed growth (and weed-pulling) to a minimum.
Mid-April marks the official last-frost date in Middle Tennessee, and it’s usually safe to set out warm-weather bedding plants such as petunias, coleus and begonias, and vegetable transplants — tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. But keep an eye on the weather. Spring is unpredictable!
Sow seeds of okra, cucumbers, squash, beans, melons, and other kitchen-garden favorites.
Don’t skimp on mulch. Use it to keep weed growth (and weed-pulling) to a minimum, and to help keep the soil moist in annual, perennial and vegetable beds.
Remove the dead flowers and stalks of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, but leave the foliage until it turns yellow. This is the time spring-flowering bulbs build up energy to bloom again next year.
Later this month
If you don’t have space for a kitchen garden, at least plant herbs in a pot. Some favorite container combinations for cooks: parsley, basil and thyme; rosemary sage and chives; mint, basil and dill. Remember to water containers frequently as summer weather approaches.
The best time to prune azaleas, flowering quince, forsythia, lilac and other early-flowering shrubs is right after they finish blooming. These plants begin forming buds for next year’s flowers on this year’s growth.
Many houseplants thrive in shady, protected spots outdoors. Place them where they won’t get blown by strong winds, pelted by hard rain or disturbed by marauding animals.
If you plant shrubs and trees this spring, make sure they get plenty of water during their first year of growth, especially as the weather gets warmer.
Provide about an inch of water a week to lawns and garden beds.