What To Do in the Garden This Month

What To Do in the Garden This Month
by Suzanne Millard, Mendocino County Master Gardener

On my little slice of Mendocino County heaven, three hours of heavy snow fell in the first week of April! Despite Mother Nature’s final attempts to hold on to winter, spring is emerging as the victor. You can’t help but smile as beautiful green shoots of color peek out from the skeletal forms of previously dormant trees and out from the moist earth. Spring has sprung!

In addition to the beautiful new foliage that is blooming everywhere, the weeds are also taking full advantage of the sun, moisture and warmer temperatures.

As a reminder, here are some of the spring-cleaning & garden preparation tasks from last month that, if you are like me, you may not have fully completed:

o Turn-in winter cover crops (after rains have subsided and soil is no longer wet)
o Clean up raised beds and amend the soil with healthy compost
o Tune up irrigation systems, replace tired parts, and set up the system to accommodate the new season's garden plan. Remember to plant your vegetables and flowers together according to companion planting guides and watering needs
o Build new plant supports for climbing plants and to maximize your garden space (vining plants such as peas, cucumbers, beans are all great climbers)
o Perform soil and water tests for pH levels
o Fertilize trees for maximum fruit production
o Start your spring weeding routine

What to plant?

Gardener's Tips - What's going on in the garden this Month? (Please click Greater Hopland Planting Guide for Peter Huff and Kate Frey's Monthly Planting Calendar for Inland Mendocino, also found at the "How To: Grow Food" page on The Gardens Project Website)

During the month of April you can directly sow vegetables and fruits such as beets, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, potatoes, celery and turnips outside. Inside, you'll want to start lettuce, chard, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, summer squash and pumpkins. At this time you can also transplant lettuce, leeks, onions, brassicas, chard and kale.

In May, you can directly sow vegetables and fruits such as beans, carrots, chard, corn, lettuce, cucumber, squash, melons, pumpkins, potatoes, turnips outside. Inside you can start heat tolerant lettuce and chard. During this time you can transplant lettuce, chard, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, melons and squash.

In April for flowers and herbs, you can directly sow dill, cilantro, and cold sensitive flowers such as Nasturtiums, Morning Glory and Alyssum. Parsley and basil may be started from seed indoors to be transplanted later.

Flowers and herbs appropriate for May direct sowing are dill, Lobella, Alyssum, Limonium, Zinnias, Amaranth, Petunias, Marigolds, Cosmos, Tithonias, Ageratum, Strawflowers, Calliopsis, Cleome, Celosia, Sanvitalia, Morning Glory, Nasturtiums, Dahlia, Heliotrope, Gomphrena, Geraniums, Sunflowers, Impatiens, Nicotiana, Thunbergia. Again in May, parsley and basil may be started from seed indoors and parsley can be transplanted outdoors.

In addition to finishing up those leftover tasks and planting all those good veggies, herbs, and flowers, you’ll want to weed, weed, weed and mulch, mulch, mulch! Here is some great information and guidelines from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources website for mulching to prevent weeds in your growing spaces…


A mulch is any material placed on the soil to cover it. Mulches suppress annual weeds by limiting the light, moisture, and gas exchange required for weed establishment. They can improve water penetration, regulate soil temperature, and prevent soil erosion.

For best weed control, use a coarse-textured mulch with a low water-holding capacity. When used alone, mulches rarely provide 100% weed control. To improve the level of weed control, apply preemergence herbicides at the same time as the mulch. Supplemental hand-weeding or spot spraying may also be needed. There can be problems associated with mulches. Some perennial weeds such as nutsedge often have sufficient root reserves to enable them to penetrate some mulches, such as a black plastic. Some annual weeds will grow through mulches; others may germinate on top of them. Applying mulches at depths of greater than 4 inches may injure plants by keeping the soil too wet and limiting oxygen to the plant's roots. However, lesser depths may have less weed control benefits. Disease incidence may increase when deep mulches are maintained.

Organic mulches
Organic mulches can conserve moisture, prevent surface crusting, improve water penetration, and cool the soil, but also can harbor invertebrate pests. Mulches include compost, very fine wood chips, grass clippings, sawdust, leaves, clippings, chipped and shredded prunings, wood products, and hardwood or softwood bark chips or nuggets. Plan to replenish landscape mulches periodically because of decomposition, movement, or settling.

Inorganic mulches
Natural inorganic mulches include sand, gravel, and pebbles. They do not provide organic matter for soil, but do conserve moisture. If using a rock mulch, consider placing a landscape fabric underneath to create a layer between the mulch and the soil and prevent rock pieces from sinking into the soil. Black plastic has been used to improve weed control, but it restricts air and water movement. Synthetic mulches, which are manufactured materials that are called geotextile or landscape fabrics, have been developed to replace black plastic in the landscape. Geotextiles are porous and allow water and air to pass through them, overcoming the major disadvantage of black plastic.

Did you know?

… That there is a tremendous body of knowledge about gardening in California which is provided by University of California Cooperative Extension? This site, geared toward the home gardener can be found at

On the site you will find information on:
Gardening Basics (Did you know you could find information here on how to practice sustainable gardening?)
Your Climate Zone (Did you know the Sunset zone maps, considered the standard gardening references in the West, are more precise than the USDA's, since they factor in not only winter minimum temperatures, but also summer highs, lengths of growing seasons, humidity, and rainfall patterns?)
How to find your local Master Gardener (Did you know that Mendocino county has two groups of Master Gardeners; Coastal based out of the Mendocino Botanical Gardens and Inland based out of Ukiah?)
Pests, Diseases and Weeds (Did you know that you can find a multitude of Pest Notes for not only household pests but plant diseases and weeds?)
Vegetables (Did you know the chief methods of vegetable garden weed control are cultivation, mulching, and hand weeding?)
Nut and Fruit Trees and Vines (Did you know it is best to plant apple trees during January, February, or March?)
Landscape Trees, Shrubs and Vines (Did you know that you can find guidance on the right place to plant a tree?)
Lawns (Did you know that you can diagnose your lawn or manage a lawn pest?)
Flowers (Did you know that you can manage pests on your flowers?)
Indoor Plants (Did you know you could find out what your indoor plant needs?)
Classes and Events (Did you know you could search for events and classes by county?)

So don your wide brimmed hat, dust off your favorite gloves, feel the beautiful combination of the spring breeze with the warm sun as you dig in the earth – Enjoy the season!