April is the time to get a jump on spring gardening, seed planting

Ferns are a must for shade gardening. (Photos by JoAnn Alberstat)

By JoAnn Alberstat

April, you are such a cruel month. I and others gardeners loathe your fickle ways.

We got a taste at Easter of how kind you can be. A few sunny warm days was enough to get the front lawn raked and a dent made in the backyard cleanup. I’m proud to say I got one perennial bed cleaned up and ready for top dressing with compost. (I call the clean-up process “picking up sticks.”)

Since then, April, you’ve returned to your wicked ways. It’s been too cold and wet to do much but watch the crows dig up my nicely raked front lawn in search of grubs.

But all is not lost in the garden when the weather is bad. There are some indoor chores to be done as well.

‘Tis the season to buy vegetable and flower seeds, for instance. I highly recommend Prince Edward Island’s Veseys Seeds, where I order most of what I need online. Besides veggie seeds, I also buy plant plugs, which are seedlings shipped by mail in mid-May. I buy pepper plants and container flowers this way every year.

Another popular local retailer is Halifax Seed, on Kane Street in North End Halifax. This is where I bought my potting soil and more veggie seeds this year. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful, and Halifax Seed has some handy how-to guides online, including Seed Starting 101.

Besides specialty stores, you can get seeds and supplies pretty much anywhere, including building centres and the grocery store.

Follow the directions on the back of packages to decide when to start seeds ‑ the information is pretty accurate. I create a calendar to help keep track of start dates. Tomatoes seeds are always the first for me.

I started them this year on the holiday weekend and already I’ve got tiny plum tomato plants sprouting near my dining room window. Here’s a seed-starting tip: Use the self-watering foam trays from Lee Valley. They’re the best.

April is also a good time to get garden tools ready, if you’re like my and fail every year to get this done in the fall. I wash my mini-rakes and spades in warm, soapy water to get rid of last year’s dirt. Once the tools are dry, I spray the blades and trowel edges with a lubricant to protect the metal. Then I check that the blades are sharp, or take them to the shop. Remember to check your gardening gloves too in case they have holes.

I do feel good that I’ve gotten some big garden chores underway. But if you’re like me, you have a long, never-ending list of outdoor tasks to be done.

Do you have any spring gardening tips or rituals that you’d like to share?

Of course, I have more picking up sticks and raking to do. But first I must tackle some tree and shrub pruning, since that should be done ASAP. There’s also a chain tree that needs removed after it fell over during a fall storm. Luckily, it’s small and didn’t cause other damage.

And I must remember to stop and enjoy the crocuses as often as I can while they’re in bloom.

JoAnn Alberstat is a PR student who likes digging up dirt. You can also find me on @JAlberstat and on LinkedIn.

My week-old plum tomato seedlings. They’re starting out in the Lee Valley trays that I mentioned.




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