University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Spring News ArticlePLANTING PEAS AND OTHER APRIL GARDENING TIPS
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Sowing peas outdoors, planting potatoes in large pots or gro-bags,
and starting summer bulbs like begonias indoors, are some of the
gardening activities for this month.
Once the soil reaches 45 degrees and is dried out enough to dig, you
can plant a first crop of peas. Choose a location in full sun and
orient the rows north-south to take full advantage of the sunlight.
Turn over the soil with a garden fork, or rototill if it's a new
bed. Soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight (no longer or they
may rot), and dust the seeds with an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing
bacteria to help the roots take in more nitrogen. (You can find this
inoculant online or at many full service garden centers.) Put up a
trellis so the plants can climb. Plan to plant another crop when
the soil warms to 55 degrees or more.
If you don't have room to plant potatoes in the garden, try planting
them in tubs or large homemade pots. Using chicken wire or wire
mesh, fashion a cylinder that's about 2 feet tall and 3 feet in
diameter and place it over a tilled bed. Place a layer of straw
along the inside walls of the cage, then add a 2- to 3-inch layer of
rich garden soil and plant 4 potato tubers. Cover the tubers with
more soil. As they grow, continue lining the inner edge of the cage
with straw and covering the young sprouts with soil until you reach
the top of the cage. Keep the plants well watered and harvest when
the vines naturally die back.
Another method is to buy one of the relatively new black potato
bags—a heavyweight fabric bag that is somewhat porous, and holds
about 15 gallons of soil. Fill it about a third full of soil mixed
with compost, then gently press the seed potatoes in near the top.
If large potatoes, cut them in half or pieces such that each one has
at least 2 or 3 healthy emerging shoots or “eyes”. Then, once the
plants begin to grow, add more soil until the bag is eventually
about full. Start your potatoes indoors in late April in a bright,
somewhat warm location, then move them outside later in spring after
frosts. This way you can harvest potatoes by mid-summer.
Dahlias, cannas, and gladiolus are available now and you can get a
head start by potting them up indoors. Plant them in large
containers and keep them in a cool room, if possible, in a sunny
window until planting time outside. Dahlias may need to be pinched
back while still indoors to keep the plants from getting leggy.
You'll get earlier blooms with this technique.
If your viburnums had problems with viburnum leaf beetles last
summer, now is the time to inspect your plants closely for
egg-laying sites on the bark. Look for tiny, brownish black bumps
on your twigs. These are the coverings over holes in which the eggs
are laid. Prune these infested twigs as soon as possible because
the eggs will be hatching soon and the young larvae will begin
feeding on new foliage.
Check strawberry plants twice a week for signs of new growth. As
soon as you see sprouts, remove the straw mulch and spread it in the
rows to help control weeds. A topdressing of an inch or two of
compost will give plants a boost.
Other gardening activities for this month include getting your soil
tested if you haven’t in recent years (kits are available from your
local Extension office), cutting back ornamental grasses (about 6 to
12 inches high), tuning up lawn mowers and power equipment, cleaning
and sharpening garden tools, and buying a bouquet of daffodils or
Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening
consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).
Return to Perry's Perennial