Northern California: April Garden To-Do List
Spring could never come soon enough in New England, where I grew up. Little by little, the winter’s once-white snow melted down to icy chunks in the rock garden and tiny crocus would make their way through the thawing ground. Robins would come looking for worms, and my father would have seedlings sprouting in the coldframe and on the sunporch. Eventually, the lilac bushes at the edge of the driveway would bloom, and Dad would clip an armful of them to bring into the house and fill the vase on the kitchen table for my Mom. Every Spring. In Northern California, however, Spring just seems to happen overnight: It goes from being rainy and chilly to—boom!—hello, Spring! That was this past weekend, and my neighbors and I were all out weeding, transplanting, tending and soaking up some warmth. Here are a few tips for the month of April to get your gardens primed for the season…
In California, almost everything's growing actively, and there are probably more things to plant, prune and protect than you can handle — this month usually offers more garden enjoyment and action than any other time of year.
Plant annual flowers. Except in cool coastal and mountain areas, fill pots and borders with heat lovers, such as marigolds, lobelia and petunias. For shady spots the old reliable (and, yes, overused) impatiens, shown here, can't be beat — it will keep blooming until Thanksgiving or longer.
Plant perennial flowers. For blooms this summer and summers to come, set out sun-loving, unthirsty types suited for our dry season: coreopsis, sage, penstemon.
Plant warm-season vegetables. Wait until the air and soil have warmed up in your area (inland valleys are already plenty warm enough) to set out tomatoes and other heat lovers, such as peppers and eggplants. These are easy to start now, in most climates, from seeds or seedlings: beans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, melons, squash. See more about growing summer crops.
Choose and plant roses. Peak bloom time this month offers the chance to pick the color you want from container-grown nursery plants. Watch for signs of aphids on buds and new growth.
Plant herbs. Try herbs in pots or a bed near the kitchen. Thyme and oregano are easy. Provide full sun and a quick-draining soil mix.
Fertilize. Almost everything benefits from a complete food this month. Give camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons an acidic fertilizer after bloom. Start your lawn on a monthly feeding program or follow the schedule on the label.
Watch for pests. Aphids in particular like juicy new spring growth. Start by blasting them with water from the hose before you move on to organic pest controls.
What's going on in your California garden? I'd love to see a photo!
NOTE: In the Bay Area, if you’re looking for local, native plants, amazing varieties, superior service and advice, check out Encinal Nursery in Alameda. They’ve become my go-to, and I’m proud to recommend these great neighborhood people!