The month of April is off to a wild start! The major spring snowstorm caused branch breakage and delivered some much-needed moisture.
To help you figure out what you need to do for your landscape during the month of April, I made a video summarizing the most important tasks. In the video, I talk about lawn care, weed management and strategies to deal with the unpredictable spring weather. Here are some of the highlights:
Water your lawn regulary.
It’s important to water about once per week during the month of April even if you haven’t turned on your sprinklers yet.Water weekly with your hose and sprinkler until you turn on your sprinkler system.
Most homeowners on the Front Range turn on their sprinklers sometime in April, while those at higher elevations might wait until May. However, your lawn doesn’t know the difference, so be sure to water it regularly starting at the beginning of April. The moisture from this past storm most likely will allow you to skip this week, but it won’t last much longer than that.
As soon as the grass blades of your lawn reach 4 inches tall, it’s time to start mowing regularly. Don’t let the grass get too tall before you mow it to avoid shocking the grass.
Core aerate your lawn.
This is one of the best things you can do to help your lawn thrive all summer long. Aeration breaks up compacted soil and allows air and water to move deeper into the root zone. The result is that your lawn will grow deeper roots, and will be healthier throughout the year. You can read more about core aeration here.
Fertilizing your lawn.
Although April is the time of year when most people fertilize, it may not be the best time. If you fertilize too early, your lawn will grow a lot of leaves at the expense of growing deep roots. Your lawn needs deep roots for the hot summer months when it uses a lot of water. So if you fertilized last September and October, I’d skip fertilizing in early April and wait until early May.
If you didn’t know you were supposed to fertilize in the fall and didn’t do it, then you can go ahead and give your lawn a light fertilization in early April. I’d recommend about half the normal rate, and then give your lawn a regular fertilization in early May. Then mark your calendars to fertilize again once around Labor Day and then again around Halloween.
In April, the early spring weeds will start to show up. The most common weeds that I see are dandelions, horseweed and grassy weeds like smooth brome and quackgrass. Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution for the early spring grassy weeds, but you can get an early start on controlling the broadleaf weeds.
My recommendation is to spot spray them. I use a ready to use bottle of lawn weed killer and just spray the individual weeds. I like the Bayer formulation because it has a red colorant that marks which weeds you’ve already sprayed so you can keep track of where you’ve been. There are many products that do essentially the same thing, but here’s a link to the product I currently use: Bayer Advanced 704130 All-in-One Lawn Weed and Crabgrass Killer Ready-To-Use, 1-Gallon
If you get close to one of your flowers or shrubs, be sure to shield their leaves with a piece of cardboard. By tackling your weeds early before they flower, you have a chance of getting rid of them before they get out of control.
Late spring snowstorms can be hard on our landscapes. If you have any spring blooming plants, like daffodils, Callery pears, or other fruit trees, the cold temperatures can freeze the flowers. One solution is to cover your plants with what’s called a frost blanket or floating row cover.
It’s a very simple light weight material that will trap heat and keep your plants several degrees above the outside air. Also, it’s light enough that it won’t crush your plants and still lets light through. These work a lot better than an old sheet or blanket. I like this one for covering flower beds or vegetable gardens since it’s long and narrow, however, there are others that are more square and work better for covering small trees or shrubs. Hanes Geo Components 46235 Frost Blanket, 8 by 50-Feet
Tree and shrub damage
Heavy snow accumulation can break branches on trees and shrubs. So, if we get a storm and you see a lot of snow piling up on the branches, it’s worthwhile to grab a broom and knock the snow off your most vulnerable plants. Pay special attention to your upright junipers and shade trees, since these tend to be the plants that get damaged by heavy spring snow.
Protect your sprinklers.
Also, if the temperature dips well below freezing, and you’ve already turned on your sprinklers, be sure to cover any exposed parts of your sprinkler system. The most common exposed part is the backflow preventer, which is that copper device that’s usually close to your house. Cover it with a warm blanket to avoid freeze damage.
Avoid planting too early.
While it’s okay to plant your cool season vegetables or pansies in April, it’s too early to plant frost-tender plants. On average, our last spring frost usually occurs during the first two weeks of May for most of the Front Range. That’s why older Colorado gardeners will tell you not to plant your summer plants before Mother’s Day. So, try to hold off planting or buy a lot of frost blankets to cover those plants when the weather dips below freezing.
Fertilizing your lawn too much.
Many people fertilize their lawns once per year, in April. So they tend to put too much fertilizer down. This can lead to the lawn growing too fast, using tons of water, and even lawn diseases like necrotic ring spot. It’s better to take a moderate approach by fertilizing your lawn 3-4 times per year with a reasonable amount. So don’t overdo it on the lawn fertilizer. You can learn more about which fertilizers work well in this article.
Let’s hope for more predictable weather for the rest of the month. Enjoy April!