April - a Time of Beauty and Awakening in the Garden | A Note from Bridge Gardens

April 19, 2024

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

April is surely a time of beauty and awakening.

Daffodils are in bloom and buds are emerging, full of promise. I’ve noticed that there are buds emerging on hydrangea stems, which means they didn’t die back to the ground as in the past 2-3 winters and will actually bloom this year. Even the in-ground figs are breaking bud, hinting that there may be a bountiful harvest later this season.


Daffodils frame this viburnum

April is also a time when there’s much to do. Seedlings started indoors need to be hardened-off or up-potted and planted in the garden. Seeds of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants need to be started and early crops like spinach, arugula, radishes and kale sown directly in the garden. Onion sets and plants are also usually planted now, as are peas. English, snap and snow peas planted this month will reward you with edible and shell-able pods starting in June.


Hardening off seedlings outdoors

Before you plant, it’s a good idea to plan your garden and decide what you’ll plant where. Keep in mind it’s a good idea to rotate crops, at least every year, especially for disease-prone crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash and cucumbers. 3-year rotation is usually recommended. Not planting the same crop in the same place every year stops insect pests and disease pathogens from building up in the soil and becoming a serious problem.

To increase your garden’s productivity, consider planting early crops like radishes and arugula where you’ll later plant tomatoes or peppers. The arugula and radishes can be harvested and removed before you plant summer crops at the end of May, giving you two crops from the same row or bed.

Forsythia also blooms in April and signals it’s time to uncover the roses and give them their first pruning as buds swell, leaves emerge and dieback becomes clear. After pruning, spray them with horticultural oil to smother overwintered black spot spores and fertilize them with a liberal application of 5-4-3 or the fertilizer of your choice and about a cup of Epsom salts per rose. Epsom salts provide extra magnesium for the roses and encourage deep green, healthy foliage.

If you have fruit trees, you’ll also want to spray them with dormant oil at bud break and begin a spray program you’ll continue during the season. We use a mix of neem and karanja oils, hydrolized fish, kelp and beneficial microbes in timely sprays to combat diseases like apple scab. The beneficial microbes colonize leaf surfaces, taking up space, and prevent spores of diseases from taking hold.

Herbs are just beginning to wake up here. Daffodils, heartsease (so-called because of its ability to cure a broken heart) and English daisy, all with a history of medicinal use, are first to bloom. Soon, they’ll be followed by bugleweed, also known as Ajuga, the ground cover commonly seen at the front of the border. Its leaves were once used to stop the bleeding of small wounds and to ease their pain. They were also used to produce a fabric dye, so you’ll find bugleweed in the herb garden’s ornamental and dye beds as well.Chives, lovage and fennel can provide fresh culinary herbs now, but it will be a while for mint and tarragon and even longer for just-sown dill and the basils of summer. If you grow sage, cut out any dead wood now and trim branches back a third to a half to encourage bushiness.

Borders are also just waking up this time of year, but it won’t be long before daffodils are joined or replaced by Virginia bluebells, columbine and other spring wildflowers.

So, lots to do, lots to see! I hope you’ll take some time out of your busy schedule to visit and enjoy the beauty of early spring at Bridge Gardens.

~~ Rick

Support the Peconic Land Trust
Peconic Land Trust needs your support to protect the working farms, natural lands, and heritage of Long Island.