It’s April and spring is here! At least the calendar says its spring. In southern Ontario, April gardening requires patience; we can’t rely on what the calendar says. Some years we are still shoveling snow and in other year’s spring flowering bulbs are in bloom.

The timing of spring gardening tasks that need to be done is totally dependent on the weather. What needs to be done doesn’t change.

Spring cleanup

While the ground is thawing and is still wet, treading on garden beds is a bad idea, it compacts the soil, and reduces drainage with the result that the roots of your plants stay wet and could rot. Soil is ready to work when it no longer sticky and has a crumbly texture. Don’t rake the lawn until the ground has dried, if you rake too early, you can pull out healthy grass along with the dead grass.

  1. Clean up fallen branches and other loose debris
  2. Remove any dead annuals both flowers and vegetables that were not removed in the fall,
  3. If you have ornamental grasses that were left for winter interest, it is time to cut them back, tall grasses should be cut back to 6-8 inches and shorter ones to 2-3 inches, they will start to grow in May after the soil warms up
  4. Remove winter mulch from the crowns of perennials and bulbs
  5. Remove any dead foliage and stems from perennials, be careful not to damage any new growth
  6. Trim back damaged foliage on perennials that don’t die back to the ground

Next steps

Spring pruning-most of us have blooming shrubs or trees, when to prune is a common cause of confusion. If your shrubs bloom before the first day of summer June 21, they are spring blooming, their buds develop on ‘old wood’ or stems that grew the previous year, they should not be pruned until after they have bloomed. Shrubs that bloom after June 21, can be pruned in early spring as their blooms develop on ‘new wood’ or stems that grow this year.

Planting and dividing-we divide plants for several reasons such as the plant is too big and has outgrown its allotted space, the centre is dying out and the plant no longer flowers as much as it should. Dividing is easiest in the spring because the plant is smaller.

In April you can plant hardy perennials that have not been grown early in a greenhouse, plus trees, shrubs, evergreens, and roses. It doesn’t matter if there is some frost or snow between planting time and warmer May weather. Cool season vegetables such as lettuces, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, onions, and peas can be planted in April. The additional moisture and cooler weather in April provides the best chance of growing success. Add compost to each planting hole and between existing plants.

There is a pervasive myth in southern Ontario that you can’t plant before the May long  weekend. This rule only applies to frost sensitive flowering annuals and warm season vegetables including beans, cucumber, melons, peppers, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, sweet corn and tomatoes. There are high tech ways of deciding when the soil is warm enough for planting warm season plants, however, a time honoured method states ‘the soil is warm enough if you can sit on the ground naked and be comfortable’

If you have garden questions please contact us at

For more information on dividing perennials and other garden topics please check out our website at and click on the education tab.

Next meeting is our Spring Open House is Tuesday April 10, 7.30pm at Streetsville United Church.

Refreshments provided by Streetsville Horticultural Society. Be our guest for the evening and find out what our Society is about.

Our speaker is Malcolm Geast, from the Ontario Horticultural Association. Malcolm will speak about insects in the garden from butterflies to beetles.