Strategic Tips for April Gardening

As April begins, the pent-up energy from a long makes us want to get outside and plant something. But as our friends at the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado remind us, some things are better done later than now. April is a time for strategic action—and a little restraint

Lawn Care
April is National Lawn Care Month for good reason. Springtime is the most critical time of year for developing a healthy, drought-tolerant lawn.  Right now, lawns need tough love more than pampering, so follow these two principles:

Water the lawn thoroughly, but only when it’s dry. Roots are developing now and need to be encouraged to grow deep into the soil. Frequent doses of water in the spring make for shallow-rooted lawns that will be less drought and heat-tolerant in the hot days of summer. Water only when you can’t push a screwdriver easily into the soil.

Don’t fertilize until May.  The only reason to fertilize early is if you apply the “weed-and-feed” variety to control early-season turf weeds. According to the researchers at Colorado State University, applying high-nitrogen fertilizer too soon causes grass to grow too quickly—before the roots are ready to support all the new-season growth. This makes a lawn less tolerant of summer heat and creates other problems.  

Spring is a strategic time of year to remove dead wood and branches damaged by winter storms. A basic rule of thumb is to prune what you can reach from the ground with an extension-pruning saw, but call in an arborist if the job is higher than your reach.

Avoid pruning spring flowering trees and shrubs until after they have flowered. Otherwise, you’re cutting off the blooms you could have enjoyed.

Ornamental grasses should be cut back before fresh growth emerges. 

Plant Something!
Flowers.  Everyone is hungry to see spring color, but annuals shouldn’t be planted until mid-May. If you just can’t wait, plant pansies; they can tolerate the cooler nighttime temperatures and even a light frost. Make sure they have already been hardened off, and if not, keep them outdoors overnight for about five nights before transplanting.  If the temperature drops below 28 degrees F, bring them indoors.

Vegetables.  Wait to plant tender veggies like tomatoes, peppers and herbs until you plant the petunias. But take advantage of early April to plant cool-season veggies that include the leafy varieties such as spinach, lettuce and kale as well as green onions, radishes and carrots. Once they are harvested, it will be time to plant warmer-season veggies.

Protect Spring Color
When the bulbs planted last fall emerge as spring flowers, they’re doing what Mother Nature intended and they are generally up to the challenge of the unpredictable weather. Tulips can sustain light snows, for example. But none of the petals on these early bloomers can survive a hard freeze that can occur in April. Neither will the pansies.

If nighttime temperatures fall below 28 degrees F, cover early bloomers to protect the flowers overnight. Also be aware that if you cover flowers and snow falls on top of the covering, the weight could crush the plants underneath. Support the covering with a few items taller than the flower stems, such as one-gallon planting pots, household buckets, etc.

Contributed by Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado with six chapters statewide. To find a landscape professional, go to and click on Find a Landscape Professional.

Categories: Landscaping & Gardening