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Gardening Guide For April: From Pruning To Planning

Slip on your gardening gloves and man your trowels as the gardening season has begun. Follow our weekly guide on what to do in your garden during this month of spring.

Red wattering can, basket and pink poke-a-dot rubber boots in a garden

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Grab some fertilizer and get your shears ready — gardening season has officially started. We pulled together a general guide for what you could be doing in your yard this month. Of course, since Canada is so diverse in weather be sure to do some follow-up research so you’re not pruning your roses before a snow storm.

Week one: Pruning

Pruning is essentially removing dead, diseased, or excess portions of a plant to encourage new (or fuller) growth and keep the plant healthy. But be warned: “Pruning is a complicated thing,” says Grant Clawson, founder of Outdoor Home Staging. Here are a couple things to consider:

1. Make sure to

  • Use sharp cutters
  • Cut on an angle
  • Prune dead branches first

2. Identify different varieties
“Traditionally in spring we prune anything that blooms on new wood,” Clawson says. But it’s important to identify what varieties you have because they all like to be pruned differently. As a general guide:


Week two: Give your houseplants some love
Now is a great time to start feeding and watering your houseplants more regularly to encourage  growth. 

1. Water and fertilize 
A great way to do a number of plants at once is to fill a bath tub with a few inches of a water fertilizer mix. Here are some fertilizer suggestions. Just let them soak until the top of the soil is wet. Then give your tub a good clean.

2. Prune
Cut off all of the dead foliage or anything that is discoloured. This will allow the plant to focus on new growth instead of trying to repair damage. Rotting leaves left in the pot can also caused the stem to rot, killing your plant.

3. Repot

Ways to tell if a plant needs repotting:

  • The ball of roots is encompassing the soil instead of vice-versa.
  • Water drains out quickly from the bottom of the pot.
  • Roots are beginning to peek out of the holes in the pot.

How-to repot a house plant:

  • Water just enough to keep the soil intact.
  • Choose a new pot, usually an inch or two bigger than the old one.
  • Layer the bottom inch or two (depending on the size) with rocks for drainage.
  • Prep soil by mixing in organic material or fertilizer (depending on the type of plant).
  • Spread soil over rocks in new pot until the plant is sitting at the height you want (leave a little room at the top so water won’t spill over the sides).
  • Fill dirt around sides and stem of plant.
  • Water.

Tip: Choosing a new pot that is too big can drown your plant because the soil will retain too much water.


Week three: Caring for bulbs
If you want your bulbs to bloom again next year, you need to let them take in as many nutrients as they can to make it through the dormant season.

1. Deadhead:
Sandra Pella, head gardener at the Toronto Botanical Garden, says that once your bulbs have finished flowering all you need to do is deadhead the finished blooms. She says you don’t even need to cut the entire flower stem back.

2. Don’t cut back foliage:
“You don’t want to remove [the leaves] while they are still green because they feed the bulb. . . You want them to die back naturally,” she says. In the meantime, you can keep them looking tidy by literally tying them into a knot. Pella says this will not damage the plant in any way.

Tip: The trick is to plant them with plants and perennials that will grow up and cover the spent foliage, says Pella.

3. Removing leaves:
Once the leaves have fully turned a yellowish-brown you should be able to gently tug them out of the ground. If you cannot easily pull them free then they are not ready to be removed. Ripping leaves out early can damage the top of the bulb or uproot the bulb.


Week four: Planning for the season
Tackling an unruly garden, expanding, or even just prepping for summer may seem like an impossible task (and an expensive one). Without a plan you could quickly become lost in the wilds.

1. Before you get started:

  • Make a map of the area you are working on and what’s already in the ground.
  • Mark what blooms when (staggering blooming times can make your garden beautiful longer.
  • Do your research.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to call a professional, they will often do consultations for free.

2. Do more research:
You may need to know what hardness zone and type of soil you are working with. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a list of the different hardness zones if you are not sure. Based on average climates, these zones will tell you what plants are most likely to survive. “Generally, the trend these days is low to no maintenance,” says Clawson (of Outdoor Home Staging).“I tend to use a lot of natives in my designs.”

3. These are the steps Clawson says he takes when landscaping:

  • Assess soil conditions
  • Excavate (after locating any possible utilities that could be buried)
  • Make any amendments necessary to the soil (this includes adding drainage and hardscaping)
  • Add landscaping cloth and layout where plants should go
  • Make final placements/ any adjustments
  • Plant and top with fertilizer, water and mulch.

4. Lawn care
The month of April is a great time to give your lawn a needed boost. Clawson suggests prepping your lawn for the summer months by laying down grass seed and a top dressing (a thin layer of organic material like mulch).