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Rhonda J. Ferree


Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture



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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Garden Calendar 2018 photo

Gardening in April


Spring has sprung, and it is time to get out in the garden. The average last frost date for central Illinois is mid-April. Therefore I wait until about Mother's Day before planting tender plants such as impatiens, basil, tomatoes, and tropicals. Even though I can't plant most of the tender plants yet, there is still a lot to do.

GENERAL

  • Measure the rainfall with a rain gauge posted near the garden so you can tell when to water. The garden needs about one inch of rain per week from April to September.
  • Add compost to the garden. If needed, till garden when the soil is dry enough.
  • Continue spring lawn and garden clean up.

LANDSCAPE (Lawns, trees, shrubs, and flowers)Lawn

  • The last Friday in April is National Arbor Day. Plant a tree, or support an organization that does.
  • Lawn: Consider replacing some lawn areas with groundcovers. Mow lawn to 2-3 inches removing no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at any one mowing. Establish or renovate turf with seed or sod, if needed. If appropriate, apply a pre-emergence herbicide to control crabgrass when forsythia begins to bloom. Read and follow all label directions.
  • Flowers: Scatter annual poppy seeds in flower borders without covering for early summer flowers. To extend the blooming period of gladiolus, plant early, middle and late season selections each week until the middle of June. Plant pansies and hardy annuals. Begin planting and dividing most perennials except bearded iris and peony. Cut down ornamental and native grasses to the ground before growth starts. Finish pulling back protective winter mulch from around perennials and roses.
  • Woodies: Examine trees and shrubs for winter injury and prune as needed. Prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia soon after bloom. For multi-stem plants, use renewal pruning by removing oldest stems at soil level. Prune summer and fall blooming clematis. Fertilize trees if not done in fall and if soil test or reduced growth indicates the need. Continue planting trees and shrubs, and consider using native plants.

GARDEN (Vegetables, fruits, and herbs)

  • Plant bare root plants before they leaf out, soak plants in warm water for 2 hours before planting.
  • Plant seeds of frost tolerant plants such as spinach, lettuce, carrot, beet, chard, parsnip and radish.
  • Continue planting or dividing rhubarb and asparagus.
  • Continue planting fruit trees, grapes, and brambles such as raspberry and blackberry.
  • Plant strawberries. Pinch off first-year flowers to encourage strong root systems.
View all of my garden tips by the month on my Garden Calendar, available for as a free pdf-format download.


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