My favorite day of the year is the first day the birds wake me, and each year, that day comes in April. It’s a day that feels hopeful and happy from the moment I open my eyes. It’s around that time that the crocuses, daffodils, pansies, tulips and rhododendrons return, too. And with them the weeds, pests and diseases — and these tips and chores to keep them at bay and breathe life into another year in the garden.
1. Lilies are traditional, but, for a change, consider decorating this year with Easter cactus, Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri.
2. No need to run the sprinkler this month; the lawn won’t need watering yet, unless you’ve seeded.
3. If rose of Sharon needs pruning, now’s your chance.
4. Plant strawberries in the garden, but not where tomatoes, peppers or potatoes have grown in the past three years.
5. Plant blackberries and raspberries outdoors.
6. Prune roses, and plant new bareroots.
7. Dig a trench 18 inches wide and deep, and plant asparagus.
8. Plant potatoes and sweet potatoes.
9. If seedlings started indoors grow leggy, pinch off tips to encourage fullness.
10. If you’re planning to move houseplants outdoors this summer, repot them now into a pot that’s 2 inches wider.
11. Divide crowded bog plants.
12. Rake the garden to remove residual leaves and plant debris.
13. When forsythia blooms on your block, it’s time to apply pre-emergent crab grass control like corn gluten meal.
14. If it’s cloudy, uncover the fig tree, then water well.
15. Today is the average last frost date on Long Island — go on and plant perennials.
16. For the healthiest plants, install a drip-irrigation system to direct water straight to roots.
17. If there’s moss in your lawn, spread lime according to package directions.
18. Plant grapes.
19. Scratch a half-cup of Epsom salts into the soil beneath roses now, and they’ll grow full and produce more blooms.
20. Harden off cole plant seedlings (broccoli, cauliflower and kale) before planting outdoors next week.
21. Divide fall-bloomers like Joe Pye Weed and asters.
22. Happy Earth Day! Consider starting a compost pile. Read my instructions at newsday.com/gardening101.
23 Remove spent flower heads from pansies to prolong their bloom time.
24. Till a generous helping of compost into prepared garden beds to add nutrients and improve drainage.
25. If chrysanthemums are three or more years old, dig up and divide them when new growth is 4 inches tall.
26. Plant cole crops outdoors.
27. It’s Arbor Day: The best day to plant trees in New York.
28. Let foliage from spring bulb plants turn brown before removing.
29. Deadhead rhododendrons immediately after flowering, and prune azaleas after they bloom.
30. When grass reaches 3 inches tall you can start mowing, but don’t fertilize until Memorial Day.