Garden Detective: April chores

April means planting blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. (June

April means planting blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. (June 24, 2005) (Credit: AP)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more

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The garden comes to life this month, with smiling pansies, cheerful daffodils and perky tulips. All this elation is accompanied, of course, by weeds, insects and diseases, so while you're reveling in the return of joy to your garden, keep your guard up and keep on top of these chores.

1. When shopping for spring annuals, don't be April-fooled by those in bloom: Plants without buds will actually bloom sooner.

2. It's time to plant potatoes and sweet potatoes.

3. Fertilize flowering bulbs growing in containers at half strength with every second watering.

4. Uncover the fig tree on a cloudy day.

5. If seedlings started indoors are growing leggy, pinch off their tips.

6. Plant fruit trees while they're still dormant.

7. Plant blackberries and raspberries. Try Brazleberry Shortcake, a thornless drawf raspberry you can grow in a pot.

8. Install a drip-irrigation system to direct water straight to roots.

9. Plant strawberries in a sunny spot, away from where tomatoes, peppers or potatoes have grown in the past three years.

10. Divide crowded bog plants.

11. Deadhead pansies, sweet William and other early bloomers.

12. Lightly till compost into prepared garden beds to add nutrients and improve drainage.

13. Deadhead rhododendrons immediately after flowering; prune azaleas after they bloom.

14. Plant grapevines.

15. It's tax day, and you know what that means? It's the average last frost date on Long Island -- plant perennials!

16. Prune rose of Sharon if necessary.

17. Plant cabbage, cauliflower and chive seedlings in the garden.

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

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

20. Sow sunflower seeds directly into the garden.

21. Divide late-summer perennials, like asters and Joe Pye weed.

22. It's Earth Day! Pull weeds out by their roots before they take over your little corner of the planet.

23. Let spring bulb foliage turn yellowish-brown before removing.

24. Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control when forsythia blooms on your block.

25. Pinch back stem tips of vining houseplants and they'll fill out nicely.

26. It's Arbor Day in New York -- consider planting a sugar maple, our state tree.

27. If your garden mums are three or more years old, dig up and divide them when new growth is 4 inches tall.

28. Cut lavender way down to encourage healthy, new growth.

29. Place a rain gauge in the garden to help determine when to water. Most plants (and lawns) require an inch per week during the growing season.

30. Wait until grass is 3 inches tall before mowing, but don't fertilize yet.