vegetable seedlings in pots
Updated: January 19, 2022

Outdoor yard and garden tips

Sustainable Gardening

  • April showers! Capture the rain for your garden. Direct downspouts and gutters to drain water onto plant beds or rain gardens where it will soak into the soil rather than run off onto walkways and roads. Direct water at least 10 feet away from the house to avoid a wet basement and foundation problems. 
     
  • If you are purchasing a mower or other gardening tools, choose manual or electric equipment instead of gasoline-powered. This will cut down on emissions that contribute to climate change. 
     
  • It takes a great deal of fossil-fuel energy to produce synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Switch to organic sources of nutrients that will feed the soil. Leave grass clippings on the lawn and use compost on garden beds. 

Trees & Shrubs

Edible plants

  • Put warm-season crops like tomatoes and eggplant outside after the danger of late frosts. Cool night temperatures in April will cause the first tomato fruits to become deformed or “catfaced”. Be prepared to cover tender transplants with paper bags, blankets, or other materials like row cover if frosts are anticipated.
     
  • “Harden-off” seedlings one week prior to transplanting to toughen the plants and ready them for outdoor conditions. 
     
  • Cut fall-planted cover crops (rye, wheat, hairy vetch, crimson clover) at ground-level and cover with a black weed barrier or tarp for 2-3 weeks to kill the cover crops and prevent re-growth The residues create a mulch you can plant into (no-till gardening).
     
  • Plant tree fruits and small fruits when weather and soil conditions are favorable. Fruits that require little or no spraying include figs, Asian persimmon, Asian pear, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, and currant.
     
  • Test your soil before planting blueberries. The desired soil pH for blueberry is 4.3-5.3. Use iron sulfate and elemental sulfur to drop the soil pH, a process that can take 6-12 months. These plants establish more quickly when a generous amount of compost is worked into the soil.

Flowers

  • Plant a butterfly garden. Butterflies add beauty and help pollinate flowering plants. A variety of nectar plants for adult butterflies and host plants (food) for the caterpillars will attract them. Milkweed species is a popular nectar and host plant for the Monarch butterfly.
     
  • Many spring bulbs have fully emerged and are flowering. Remove spent flowers but leave the green bulb foliage alone until it yellows and dies back naturally.

Lawns

  • Lawn mowing season begins in April. The height and how frequently you mow your lawn is very important to turf quality and weed management. Cool-season grasses such as tall fescue and bluegrass should be maintained between 3 - 4 inches for most of the growing season and no more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade should be removed at each mowing.

Wildlife

  • Eastern box turtles and various species of snakes are coming out of hibernation and may visit your yard. Box turtles are becoming scarce through much of Maryland because of road mortality and habitat destruction. Observe it but leave it in the wild.
     
  • More than one-quarter (28%) of North American bumble bees are at risk of extinction. Learn how you can host bees in your garden by providing the habitat and nesting places they need. 
     
  • Join a hike with the Maryland Native Plant Society or a local park to see some of Maryland's beautiful wildflowers in bloom and learn about the natural habitats in which they grow. 

Pests

  • Viburnum leaf beetle is a serious pest of native arrowwood viburnum, cranberry bush, and many others. Look for feeding damage on viburnum and yellow larvae. Control them promptly since they can defoliate plants. Repeated defoliation can result in the death of native viburnums.
     
  • Ticks are active when the temperature is above freezing. Wear light-colored clothing and get in the habit of checking yourself, your loved ones, and pets closely for ticks after spending time outdoors. Repellents are also an effective tool to keep ticks away.
     
  • Spotted lanternfly eggs will start hatching in late April or early May depending on the weather.

Disease

  • Cedar-apple rust disease forms its galls on Virginia cedar (Juniperus virginiana) in April. The odd-looking galls are at first bright orange gelatinous balls with long “horns” or projections; they later turn brown and become hard. They are the alternate host structure for a disease that does very little harm to the junipers but can be quite destructive to apple trees, hawthorns, and quince.

Indoor plant and insect tips

Indoor plants

  • Groom indoor plants by removing dead and diseased foliage or spent flowers; this reduces insect and disease problems and improves their appearance. Gently dust the leaves with a soft rag. If possible, periodically place your plants in the shower to remove dust and to give them a good drink of water. This can revive a tired houseplant and helps to leach soluble salts (from fertilizers) from the soil.
     
  • Fungus gnats are small, harmless black flies that hover around, breed in and feed on moist growing media. Be careful not to over-water houseplants. Growing media should be allowed to dry out before watering again.

Pests

 

acrobat ants feeding on bait
Acrobat ants feeding on ant bait
Photo: Jessica Louque, Smithers Viscient, Bugwood.org
  • Different types of foraging ants may appear in your home. Try using bait stations to control minor infestations. Liquid and gel formulations are usually quite effective.