Timely Gardening Tips

Regional and seasonal garden tips for where you live.

  • Home Gardening
    Gardening has taught me one important lesson: Do not rely on the past year's weather for this year's planting schedule. Because every spring is different, watch the long-range weather reports.
    Photo courtesy Fotolia/S.H.exclusive

  • Home Gardening
Edited by Carol Mack

New England & Maritime Canada

The wood frogs are in full chorus. Deer brave the open fields, hungry for tender, new grass. It's time to put up birdhouses, and to feed and re-mulch fruit trees and berries. Tomato and pepper seedlings need to be transplanted into bigger pots. Start brassicas early but wait on squash and melons until three to four weeks before setting them out. A few pots of fast-growing annuals like morning glories and nasturtiums give a jump on the blooming season. Outside, weeds pull easily from the asparagus patch and perennial beds. When the ground can be worked, sow hardy greens, parsley, cilantro, onions, leeks, peas, and fava and garbanzo beans. May brings the return of the tree swallows, swooping and twittering as you plant carrots, beets, brassicas, annual flowers, herbs and lettuce. Summer squash and swimming are within sight, at least for the optimistic and the adventurous.


April is the crucial time to get a handle on pests like harlequin bugs — enlist your chickens for a search-and-destroy mission. Continue biweekly sowings of carrots, beets, chard, radishes, spinach and some late garden peas. When the first asparagus spear emerges, hoe the patch and mulch it loosely with hay. Try sowing some white Dutch clover between the rows of peas and carrots after a vigorous hoeing. Thin both carrots and beets within two weeks of emergence. About the fifth of April, transplant bulb onion seeds and sets. Take a gamble on setting out some early tomatoes, but be prepared to protect them from frost. Hill the potatoes when they are 8 inches high and squish the potato bugs or call in the chickens again. Come May, it's time to plant warm weather crops and weed all that stuff, too — phew. Hoe annual weeds on dry days, and hand-pull long-rooted biennials and perennials when the soil is wet.

Southern Interior

It seems to be a Southern tradition to direct-sow summer veggies on Good Friday. Last year, monsoon-like rains made it impossible to plant until late May. Hopefully, we can return to our traditional April timetable this year and get summer staples like squash, pole beans, butterpeas, corn and okra in the ground just like Grandma used to do. Whenever you plant squash, be sure to give it plenty of room to spread out— thin squash seedlings to two plants per hill with hills 2 to 3 feet apart. For healthier plants and bigger yields, inoculate pole beans, cowpeas (aka field peas) and butterpeas with nitrogen-fixing bacteria before sowing. Soak okra seed for 24 hours in warm water for better germination. Then turn your attention to spring-flowering shrubs. Azaleas, spiraea, viburnum and forsythia can be pruned after flowering, and May is prime time to do so before energy-sapping heat makes the job worse.

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