April Gardening

    T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.”  In the midst of flu season and the occasional snowstorm, April can indeed seem cruel. But gardeners never lose hope. It lies in the heat of the sun and the smell of soil. April entices us into the garden.
    Hardy little tulips poke their heads out on the sunny side of the house, but those planted away from the sun are watching the weather.  You can gauge how close spring is by the Trilliums. They may poke a nose or two out if you look closely but never really come up until spring is certain.  Native plants know how cruel April can be. 
    April, the beginning of our outdoor gardening year, comes with many things to do.  Here are some of the things you might do this month.
  • House plants will begin to actively grow as the sunlight strengthens and lengthens.  It’s a good time to start feeding them on a monthly basis – or weakly weekly.  They also might enjoy a repotting. Check their roots to see if they are crowding the pot.  If the roots are circling the bottom of the pot, they definitely need to be replanted into a bigger pot.
  • I cut back the poinsettia combo that Kelly gave me before Christmas –a pink plant, a white one and a gorgeous red one.  I watered the three in the pot and put the drastically pruned plants under lights.  Now I’ll watch the progress. The first plant to put up new growth will be the one I repot and grow on for next fall.
  • Those veggie seeds I plan to start indoors need to be sown by the second week of April to be ready to plant out in late May.  Our last frost date here in Barrie is May 26.  Seeding six to eight weeks before they can be hardened off and set outside is a good rule of thumb.
  • On a nice sunny day sometime in April, I will tackle the garden shed.  There are things to get rid of and things to sort, and things that didn’t get cleaned last fall.  All the little tools should be checked and made ready for May work. The spade needs to be sharpened and also my trowels -- the better to dig with, my dear.  What I neglected last fall will have to be done this spring!
  • As soon as the soil has thawed, I have some perennials to lift and divide, and it’s almost time to start some lettuce.
  • I’ll try to get some gardening help this year – one person for a morning every other week.  He/she will work mainly on the front fighting creeping companula and suckers from the crab apple tree.  One big job will be to renovate the boulevard garden and make it a once-a-year maintenance project by eliminating plants that need lots of care.  The space will become a wild garden for insects to use.
  • If I can find a source for corn gluten meal, I’ll add it to the bit of grass on Kirk’s side of the boulevard for a quick nitrogen boost. And I’ll remember to resist the temptation to sow grass seed for a least 6 weeks after applying corn gluten.  Corn gluten inhibits the germination of seeds – a good thing for preventing weed seeds or seeds from the Manitoba maple on the boulevard from germinating, but a bad thing for grass seed
  • I and my helper will tidy up the front and clean up the branches that came down during the winter.  I’m 81 and find many things that I used to do impossible now so will appreciate a helper with a strong back.
  • The raised beds in the back yard should thaw quickly with a few warm days, and I can start preparing vegetable beds as soon as the soil can be worked.  I won’t jump the gun, though, and work soil before it dries out a bit.  Working wet soil absolutely ruins the texture of the soil.
  • And on nice mornings, I plan to walk in the garden to see what has popped up overnight.  I’ll look for Corydalis ‘George Baker’ and for signs of trilliums, for the flat leaves of daffodils and the early growth on the honeysuckle, for the big leaves of colchicums and the small leaves of Lesser Celandine
  • Hurray – It’s April!

Pollinator Patches

"Be the change you want to see in the world." When Mahatma Gandhi said that he must have been thinking about Pollinator Patches. You can make a difference in your world this year by creating a Pollinator Patch -- a habitat for butterflies and native bees and other insects.

Set aside a portion of your garden or maybe your boulevard to be devoted to native plants that pollinators will love. Plan your Patch in a sunny spot that will attract bees and other insects.   There is lots of information on the Web about what native plants you may want to choose. 

You might want to go beyond your personal bounds and plant a Patch on public ground.  You’ll need permission to do this but municipalities are conscious of the need for native plants for insects and may be very glad to have you head a native planting group.

Although your planting is designed to be a haven for butterflies and other insects, your focus right now should be on the Monarch Butterfly.  The butterfly has been assessed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

To attract and save Monarchs, be sure to plant a stand of milkweed in your Pollinator Patch.  Milkweed is critical to the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies. The butterflies will hunt for milkweed and only milkweed for egg laying. They will lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. Plants of the milkweed family are also the hosts of Monarch larvae. The resulting larvae will eat only milkweed leaves. No milkweed -- no Monarchs.]

If you don't want to plant ordinary milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in your garden, consider Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) instead.

For bees and other butterflies, yellow, red and orange plants of the composite type are especially interesting.  Rudbeckias and asters are the easiest to grow.  Coreopsis is another plant loved by bees and butterflies.  Research on the web for other plants for your Pollinator Patch.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Plant a Pollinator patch this year.

The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us. --- E. O. Wilson



Jottings contains some articles I wrote for the monthly newsletter of Barrie's Garden Club and other projects. I hope you enjoy them.


It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984)


Hints & Tricks

This is a collection of neat ideas and crazy tricks that I've collected from various sources. Many are amusing, and most are useful. We gardeners just love to learn neat little ways of doing our gardening jobs more effectively. My most popular talk was just that: "Hints and Tricks."

Most of the hints I've used myself or know someone who will vouch for them. All of them are fun to read and almost as much fun to do.


We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever. Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)


Gardening Info

This is a miscellaneous section of odds and sods of information I've collected and would like to share. I've found most of the information in magazines and on the internet or in the many gardening books I can't resist buying!

You'll also find some of my favourite links on the Gardening Info page.


"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.’s job." ~ Philip Angell, Monsanto's Director of Communications (October 1998)


The Blog

I guess the whole site is a sort of blog, isn't it?

But this newer section is a more conventional blog -- a space to put my thoughts and new ideas as I learn them or think them.