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New England Gardening Advice By the Month -April

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The month of April truly ushers in the season of Spring in New England. Snowdrops, crocuses, and then daffodils seem to sprout and bloom overnight, usually on the heels of a two or three day warm spell. These occur in the early part of April in the south coastal regions of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, and in the latter part of the month in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

As soon as the outside temperatures allow, its time to remove any dead or decaying matter in your New England garden that may be covering up your spring flowers. Its important to rake the garden beds BEFORE they start growing or you can damage the plants, removing the flowers accidentally or even killing the plant before it gets a chance to flower and set leaves. What to do with all that stuff you raked out of the garden? If you have the room, we highly suggest buying a small composter from your local garden shop. They will run you between $50 and $100 and are invaluable to keeping your garden weed-free, fertilized and reducing the burden on your watering can. If you don't have the room, most towns have pickup days during the month where they'll take garden refuse or a landfill close by.

spring crocus in the New England garden

If you have a vegetable garden, or are planning one for this year, now is also the time to turn over the soil from your annual vegetable areas and rake any debris covering perennial vegetables such as asparagus. Again, doing this early makes clean up MUCH easier than trying to work the soil around the vegetables later on after they are established and growing. Believe it or not, by the end of April you can plant peas and lettuce in most of New England directly by seed in the ground for a beautiful spring crop of snow peas and boston lettuce. These vegetables love the cooler days and nights and actually grow much better than in summer heat.

Lastly, if you are inclined to grow your own vegetables from seed, many of the summer ripening varieties of tomato especially will benefit from an early headstart from seed on a sunny windowsill. If you don't have adequate light, however, the seedlings can become long and weak over the next 8 weeks and may be unusable in the garden. So, be sure you have them in a south facing window that gets at least 4-5 hours of direct sun daily. On warm days, open the window and let the breeze blow on the plants. This helps to harden the tissue on the stem so that when you plant them outside, their stems will be able to take the strain of blowing in the wind. It can take up to two weeks to "harden" plants from windowsill to garden so every little bit helps along the way.

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