Ask a Master Gardener: How to prep your garden this April

With April starting, here are some gardening tips for vegetable gardening, outdoor flowering plants and ornamentals.

Vegetable gardening

Cool, wet soils can extend germination time or cause seed rot. If you find no signs of growth after 10 to 14 days, consider replanting.

When planning your vegetable garden, cool season vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage and broccoli need at least six hours of sunlight to develop properly. Warm season vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, eggplant and peppers need 10 hours of full sun.

Cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants can be planted all month.

Plastic jugs with the bottom removed makes inexpensive and easy-to-use "hot caps" for covering your vegetable seedlings when there is a chance of frost.

Make succession sowings of cool season crops such as lettuce, spinach, radishes and beets.

It is easy to over-sow small-seeded vegetable crops such as lettuce, spinach, carrots and radishes. Take time to thin out crowded seedlings.

Do not rush to get warm season vegetables in the garden prior to the first week of May or before the chance of frost has passed. The ground needs to be warm enough to promote adequate growth.

Cucumber, cantaloupe, and summer squash can be started indoors.

Plants started indoors should be hardened off outdoors before being transplanted into the garden. For more information, see MU Extension Guide g6570 Starting Plants Indoors From Seeds at https://extension.missouri.edu/g6570.

Don't allow weeds to get an early start in your garden.

Asparagus and rhubarb harvests begin.

Outdoor flowering plants, ornamentals

Plan to attract pollinators to your garden. Attract hummingbirds by planting red or orange flowers. Attract butterflies to the garden with a mix of perennial and annual flowers. Consider planting a milkweed species to attract monarchs.

Prune flowering shrubs after blooming has completed. Pruning now will not affect blooms for next year.

Apply mulch to landscape beds once soils have warmed and the chance of frost has passed.

Plants bought out of greenhouses need to be hardened off before planting.

Remove winter mulch from roses. Prune before new growth begins.

Plant dahlia tubers as soon as the danger of frost has passed. Stake or cage at time of planting to avoid injury to tubers. Plants can be mulched as the shoots emerge out of the ground.

When buying bedding plants, choose healthy looking, compact, bushy plants with good color that have not started flowering. When in doubt, remove the pot and take a look at the roots. Roots should be white and not brown to black. Select plants with well-developed root systems that are vigorous, but not too large for their pots.

Examine shrubs for winter injury. Prune out all dead or weakened wood.

Don't give up on plants that are damaged from low temperatures. They can have leaf burn or lose leaves and still be alive. Let them grow out before pruning them back if you can't tell what is dead.

Take time to enjoy nature! Consider visiting your local state parks and conservation areas.

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

Dhruba Dhakal, PhD is a University of Missouri Extension Horticulturist, serving to Missourians about a decade in Central Missouri. Dhakal can be contacted at [email protected] with gardening questions.