April is a good month for veggie gardeners

April is a fairly forgiving month for gardening. Many vegetables can be seeded or transplanted outside - this includes broad beans, peas, radishes and coolweather leafy crops such as arugula, spinach, chard and kale.

But among crops that dislike April planting are garlic and multipliers. Late planting ends in a late harvest of small bulbs due to lack of development time.

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Some gardeners try to get around this by loading them up with nutrition.

Some crops are frustrating. For instance, parsley takes many weeks to germinate. Parsnips have a low percentage of germination even from fresh seed (buy two packets and plant thickly). Beetroots germinate in clumps because each "seed" is a fibrous ball containing several seeds.

It's time now to plant seed of warm-weather crops inside. This includes tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers. Some gardeners start seed inside in early March, but timing can be tricky. Our springs are often cold and wet, and it's frequently best to wait to the end of May before transplanting warmweather crops outside.

Tomatoes, started inside, can outgrow their pots in a few weeks and not all gardeners have the space or time to move them into larger containers before they can go outside. Squash, started inside, can overflow its pots even faster.

This is also a good time to brave showers outside and plant rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and other kinds of berries as well as fruit trees. Herbs and perennials can also be put in now.

In April, the number of choices in garden centres is at its peak.

Also, the garden club plant sale season is just starting. Wonderful bargains abound in these sales along with plant-growing information - often given by the gardeners themselves.

But it's always practical to ask about invasiveness. Plant groups such as violets, lamiums, epimediums, lysimachia and cranebills all contain species which beginners love because they're pretty and unkillable but which more experienced gardeners want to remove.

When flowering is done, spring bulbs need to be fertilized because they are beginning to form the embryo of next year's bloom. Larger bulbs should be dead-headed, but the smaller ones flower so fast from their scattered seed, they can be left to spread.

Towards the end of April, dahlias, lilies, anemones and other summer bulbs can be planted out.

Also gladiolas, which make a good succession crop if a few are planted every week.

People who want an easy-care summer can mulch their borders with bark mulch or weed-free compost. Mushroom manure can be a good mulch for plants which like alkaline conditions. But rhododendrons, blueberries and azaleas hate it.

Spring-flowering shrubs can be pruned once they've finished flowering. This includes forsythia, Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), white forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum), winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) and any dead, broken or rootstock suck-ers of witch hazel.

Winter heather needs trimming back into the green part of the stems.

Conifers can also be pruned back into the green. Both these refuse to re-shoot from dead, brown stems.

In rural gardens, old, dead hardy fuchsia branches should be cut to the ground. But gardeners where deer eat fuchsias might try leaving the bare, dry branches. Deer don't like putting their faces into scratchy twigs.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her by email, amarrison@shaw.ca.

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