A is for April:
Now is the time to assess your garden. Take a look at your trees and shrubs. Do you see any broken limbs or branches? Are there any branches that are crossing over or rubbing against one another? How does your soil look? Do your containers have any cracks or damage that needs to be rectified? Which of your perennials are coming back, and how do they look?
Once you've assess the shape of your garden, make a list of the things you need or want to address when the weather permits. Come up with a plan for each of your garden beds or boxes. Think about what plants you want to add this year, and figure out where you want to place them. With a solid plan and list in hand, you're ready to shop for your garden supplies and plants. You know exactly what items you need this year (and what you don't) and how many of each item will be required for your space. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of things and sets you up for success once you get to the fun stuff - the actual gardening!
Amend your existing plants. Prune off any broken, damaged, or diseased limbs or branches from your trees and shrubs. If there's nothing broken or diseased, consider pruning back some of the last year's growth to maintain the size and shape of your trees or shrubs. I highly recommend a quick Google search before you take to pruning. Make sure that spring is the right season for pruning, as some plants prefer the fall. Figure out how much to prune without damaging the plant's growth this season. (As a rule of thumb, you don't want to prune beyond 1/3 of the plant's growth). And learn how to prune properly. A little education on pruning goes a long way and takes the fear out of what some find an intimidating prospect. Here are some additional resources you may find useful:
Amend your soil. If you haven't done a soil test in a while (or ever), now is a good time. Find out if your soil is acidic, alkaline, or neutral, and then consider what the plants you have growing (or would like to grow) require in order to perform their best. Now may be the time to add a little fertilizer for things like your acid-loving plants. (Again, a quick Google search will help you identify what fertilizers your plants prefer and when they prefer it).
If fertilizer isn't your bag (no pun intended), consider adding compost. I like to add my compost in April. I put it down, mix it in with last year's soil, and then let the rain we get carry the nutrients compost contains down to my plant's roots. That way, when I go to do my new planting for the year, I can be confident that my soil is healthy.
After assessing and amending your space as needed, now is a good time to make any adjustments you'd like to make to your existing garden before bringing in new plants. Maybe there are some plants that would grow better in a different location this year. Maybe there are some plants that you once loved but no longer fit your style. Whatever it is, making these adjustments now opens up room for new ideas this season. For example, I love hostas. I love their big, lush foliage. Unfortunately, so do the slugs in my garden. So this month, I will take the hostas from my back garden and move them to a tree pit outside my apartment. They're still healthy and beautiful; they just aren't going to thrive in my garden.
Why now? Why April? Because little adjustments like these are easy to make when you only have short windows of good weather in which to work. You can get outside when the rain relents, make an adjustment or two, and be back inside before it starts again. You don't have to be out all day; you don't need to a full day of sunshine. You can just make the most out of what each day offers.
A is for April. And April can be a very productive month. Just use this time to Assess, Amend, and Adjust.
I hope this helps you plan and prepare your garden this spring and maybe, just maybe, brightens a rainy day or two.