Garden Detective: April chores

The tulip garden in Heckscher Park, Prime Street.

The tulip garden in Heckscher Park, Prime Street. (Credit: Newsday Photo / Bill Davis)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more

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My pansies never entered dormancy this winter, and the hellebores started really early, but I'm still overjoyed that spring is here. I didn't have cause to miss the season as much as I typically would, but the knowledge that I'll soon be planting perennials, dividing plants and sowing annuals has me grateful for April, which for good reason is National Garden Month. Enjoy it!

1. If you haven't already done so, sow peas in the garden bed.

2. Plant potatoes and sweet potatoes.

3. Pinch off the tips of leggy seedlings growing indoors to make them stockier.

4. Plant raspberries and blackberries.

5. Prune rose of Sharon.

6. Install a drip-irrigation system; it's the healthiest way to water your plants.

7. Passover begins at sundown. Start parsley seeds indoors and plant horseradish root cuttings directly in the garden.

8. Happy Easter! Remove the yellow anthers from lilies received as gifts, and they'll bloom longer without dirtying your tablecloth.

9. As long as it's cloudy, uncover wrapped or buried fig trees and water. If it's sunny, try again tomorrow.

10. Plant strawberries in a sunny spot, but not where tomatoes, peppers or potatoes have grown in the last three years.

11. Divide crowded bog plants.

12. Remove spent flower heads from pansies to prolong their bloom time.

13. Deadhead rhododendrons immediately after flowering, and prune azaleas after they bloom.

14. Till a generous helping of compost into prepared garden beds to add nutrients and improve drainage.

15. It's tax day and you know what that means? It's the average last frost date on Long Island so it's safe to plant perennials.

16. Time to plant grapevines!

17. If you're planning to move houseplants outdoors this summer, repot them now into a pot that's 2 inches wider.

18. Aerate the lawn and rake up debris, but don't lime unless a pH test indicates it's necessary.

19. Divide late-blooming perennials, like asters and Joe Pye weed.

20. Pull weeds out by their roots before they take over.

21. Harden broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and lettuce seedlings by gradually increasing daily outdoor time over the next week before planting.

22. It's Earth Day! Commemorate the occasion by starting a compost pile. My complete instructions are in Gardening 101 at newsday.com/home.

23. Scratch one-half cup of Epsom salts into the soil around roses to boost flower production and plant fullness.

24. Resist the temptation to remove foliage from spring bulb plants before it turns brown. The bulbs are busy storing food needed to bloom next year.

25. When forsythia blooms, it's time to apply pre-emergent crabgrass control like corn gluten meal.

26. Plant annual seeds directly into the garden.

27. It's Arbor Day in New York! Buy baby trees for as little at $2.79 while helping a worthy cause at arborday.org.

28. Want fuller vining houseplants? Pinch back stem tips now.

29. If your garden mums are 3 or more years old, dig up and divide them when new growth is four inches tall.

30. Start mowing when grass is 3 inches tall, but don't fertilize until Memorial Day.