University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
YOUR SOIL AND OTHER APRIL GARDENING TIPS
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Testing your soil, potting summer bulbs,
and planting peas are some of the gardening activities for this month.
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.
Remove the old stalks from ornamental
grasses before new growth begins or you'll cut off new growth when you prune.
For large plants, you may need to use hedge trimmers or a pruning saw. Cut to
several inches above the crown. It helps to tie the stalks together before you
If you have pets or neighbor cats and
dogs that like to visit your gardens, take steps now to deter them. There are
products you can sprinkle around the beds that safely repel animals, low fences
that you can set up around beds, and gadgets such as pointed plastic spikes you
can lay in popular digging spots. It's easier to deter bad habits than to break
Since butterfly bushes (if hardy in your
area) bloom on new growth, the best time to prune is early spring before new growth
begins. Cut off the old stalks to within a few inches of the
ground. If you want a more compact plant, also pinch off the tips of the
branches in early May. If you wait too long, you'll remove flower buds.
Once the soil reaches 45 degrees and is
dried out enough to dig in, it's time to plant 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. Set up your trellis first, then plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches
deep. Cultivate very shallowly because the roots grow close to the surface;
better yet, pull the weeds by hand so you don't accidentally cut off a plant.
Now is a good time to dig and divide
late-blooming perennials, such as asters and daylilies, when they begin
emerging from the soil surface. Dig up the clump, and use a sharp spade to
create pie-shaped wedges. Replant these divisions in a full-sun location in
well-drained soil, and water often to keep soil moderately moist.
It's a good idea to test your soil every
few years to determine its nutrient status and pH (acidity/alkalinity).
state Extension Service can provide a reasonably priced test, and along
the results you'll get recommendations for improving the soil. At the
least test the pH, which you can do yourself with an easy-to-use home
kit. You can find them at many garden stores. Make sure the kits are
new this year, as the
chemicals can go bad over time. The
proper soil pH is especially important for plant health.
Return to Perry's Perennial