Monthly Garden Calendar for Northern Tier United States

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Debby Flowers

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APRIL

Who doesn't love the month of April? We may have a little snow, ice, or mud (or in many cases, all three), but there is no doubt that spring is on the way. At our farm, and those of our neighbors, robins and other returning birds sing songs of the season, while peeping chicks scratch about under their heat lamp in the henhouse.

Successful Seedling Germination. Find a warm, dark place to put seeded flats to germinate. They must be checked daily (twice daily is better) and at the first sign of growth be moved under florescent lights.

Water Seedlings Properly. They must not dry out, nor be soggy. It is best to water them by adding water to the tray that the containers are sitting in, not by watering from above, as they are very delicate.

Preserve Your Soil Structure. Resist the urge to dig or till the soil in flower and vegetable beds until it has dried out well. Working wet soil can damage soil structure, and make things more difficult for you later.

Say Goodbye to Your Mulch. Remove winter mulches from around roses and shrubs around the third week of April, depending on the weather. Rake away leaves or straw covering strawberry plants, too.

Build a Cold Frame. Cold frames may be as simple as some straw bales with a piece of Plexiglas laid across the top, or more elaborate if you want to try out your carpentry skills. Keep old blankets handy to add extra insulation on very frigid nights.

Ponder Your Planting Strategy. Some vegetables, such as peas, lettuce, and beets, may be seeded directly into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Every year will be different, and when you get them in will depend on the weather and how wet the soil is.

Peas Preparation. Pea seeds germinate faster if they are soaked overnight in warm water. Use a container big enough to allow them to swell to double their size. If you have some soaked pea seeds left after planting your pea rows, try planting them in a large outdoor containers, such as a half-barrel.

Rhubarb Recommendations. Plant or transplant rhubarb before it begins to grow. Rhubarb can stay in the same place for many years, but it should be divided if you are mainly getting skinny stalks.

Tree Tips. For planting trees, soak bare roots in a bucket of water for an hour or so before planting. Be careful not to plant trees too deeply. If you study the base carefully, you should be able to find the old soil line and use that as your guide. You can also be thinking about pruning your deciduous trees.

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