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Laidback Gardening: What to Do in April ?

No matter how laidback you are, there are still some limits! You can put off certain things, like houseplant care, if you’re too busy, but by mid-April, you should still be starting your seedlings for the vegetable garden.

In our flower beds, we can continue to laze around until May or even June to let the soil dry out and the insects wake up before doing a little tidying up, but don’t feel obliged to do so. Mother Nature will do most of the work herself.

This list is adapted to northern gardeners who may still have some snow on the ground at this time of year and some freezing at night.

What to do in April

  • Sow plants that require indoor sowing;
  • Start fertilizing your seedlings when they have 4 to 6 true leaves;
  • Give your seedlings a quarter turn at each watering;
  • Thin out seedlings as needed;
  • Re-pot your houseplants;
  • Give your houseplants a shower;
  • Pick willow blossoms;
  • Remove winter protection;
  • Wait before walking on your lawn;
  • Note the location of your spring-flowering bulbs.

Seeds to Be Sown in April

Photo: Greta Hoffman

If you’re a laidback gardener like me, you’re just getting started on your vegetable and garden seedlings for this summer. The timescales recommended in books may seem excessive to some. For example, planting tomatoes eight weeks before the last frost is fine in a greenhouse, where cooler temperatures produce those beautiful, stocky plants that no one could grow in a house. If you plant tomatoes in your apartment under more or less adequate lighting eight weeks earlier, you’ll have sickly-looking plants. Opt instead for dates closer to planting time in this case. In the end, even a four-week delay can be enough for good results.

Here are some seedlings to start in early April and late April in Canada.

Seedling Fertilization

Engrais pour semis

When it comes to fertilizing your seedlings, wait until your plant has 4 to 6 true leaves. Cotyledons, the plant’s first two leaves, are not included in this count. In fact, cotyledons are already present inside the seed before germination and unfold when conditions are right.

Why wait? Because seeds are rich in energy. They contain a small embryonic plant and enormous energy reserves. These reserves enable seedlings to grow until they develop roots to feed themselves and leaves to photosynthesize. In short, no leaves, no roots, no fertilizer!

It’s also important to note that many potting soils are lightly fertilized. Before fertilizing your seedlings, check the packaging of your favorite potting soil. This could explain why you’ve had good success with seedlings in the past, despite a lack of fertilizer.

Thin Out Seedlings

Yes, you can eat the leaves of thinned baby carrots.Photo: www.gardenersworld.com

Did you sow too many seeds in case they didn’t all germinate, and now you’re left with an excess of seedlings? No problem! On the contrary, many seedlings are perfectly edible, including leafy greens and herbs. Here’s a list of common seedlings that are edible.

Quarter Turn for Your Seed Trays

When growing seedlings in front of a window, it’s important to give the seed trays a quarter turn every few days. Do this at the same time as you water them, so you don’t forget.

You can do it clockwise or anti-clockwise, but be consistent in your choice! This rotation prevents the seedlings from leaning too far towards the sun.

If you grow your seedlings under lamps, it can also be useful to rotate your seedlings, as the light intensity is not equal at the ends and in the center.

Here are some other tips for healthy seedlings!

Re-Pot Houseplants or Do Some Resurfacing

Photo: legt-schuman-haguenau.net

It’s not too late to repot or resurface your houseplants. I often do it at the same time as my seedlings, since my tools and materials are already ready. Sometimes, I even wait until late spring and do my repotting when I transfer my plants outdoors for the summer.

A Good Spring Shower

Photo: Jill Burrow

Plants absorb much of the dust in the air around them, which is one of their main sources of minerals. However, over the long term, dust and dirt can accumulate, leading to the obstruction of leaf stomata (pores) and a reduction in their efficiency. What’s more, unwanted insects may hide on plants without you even noticing them.

To remedy this, there’s nothing better than a good shower with lukewarm water to clean your plants. You can rinse them under the shower or in the bath using a shower head. Before proceeding, cover the surface of the potting soil with a cloth to prevent it being washed away. Try rinsing both sides of the leaves. If the foliage is really dirty, you can even use a soapy cloth to gently rub both sides.

Take the opportunity to treat your houseplants to a spa day!

Pick the First Flowers of Spring: Willow Catkins

Photo: Daria Ivanenko

When gardeners anticipate the first flowers of spring, they often think of small, early bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses and winter aconites. However, in many regions, it’s catkin willows that bloom first, often a month before the bulbs.

Depending on your region, they can bloom as early as January (in mild climates) or as late as May (in colder regions). You can force willow branches to bloom in your home long before they bloom outside, or dry them out. Read Pussy Willows: The First Flowers of Spring!? by Larry Hodgson, to find out more.

Remove Winter Protection

For those who have installed winter protection to protect new trees or shrubs, the time has come to remove it. The sudden heat surges of spring can cause your plants to overheat. In fact, it’s best to leave the top of your cover open to let the heat out. For more information, read Larry Hodgson’s Sensible Winter Protection.

Avoid Walking on Lawns

Although the snow has already melted in many places, it’s not necessarily time to clean up your lawn (you can even avoid doing it altogether!). In spring, the soil is still soggy, and walking on wet soil compacts it and harms lawn growth.

If you insist on cleaning your lawn, wait until it starts to green up. Usually, this is a few weeks after the snow has melted and the soil has dried out enough for you to walk on it without damaging it.

Make a Plan of Bulb Placement

Photo: Julie Boudreau

Spring-flowering bulbs are not commercially available until September. So we plant them in autumn. But how do we remember where our existing bulbs are, so we don’t plant them in the same place?

Simple, you just make a plan of where they’ll be when they’re in bloom in spring. Or, even easier, take pictures!

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

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