What to do in the Garden in April

What to do in April

* The average last frost date in Portland, OR is April 26.  Try to hold back from planting warm season veggies until then….

Planning Ahead

  • Watch the weather.  Check air temperatures and soil temperatures.
  • Prepare beds for the garden 1 – 3 weeks before planting.
  • Weed while the ground is soft, wet, and warm and the weeds are young.
  • Mulch to prevent weeds.  Rake back mulch and warm the soil before planting seeds.
  • Compost and collect organic matter for the compost pile.
  • Compost and amend your soil.
  • Patrol for slugs.
  • Protect your plants from deer and other wildlife.
  • Ensure good air flow around your plants to prevent fungal disease.
  • Inoculate soil with mycorrhizae.
  • Build trellises for vining plants.
  • Dry herbs for tea.

In The Vegetable Garden

  • Direct sow cold-tolerant vegetables outdoors, such as arugula, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, parsnips, carrots, lettuces, parsley, leeks, radishes, spinach, turnips, quinoa, and shallots outdoors.
  • If you have starts, transplant arugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, lettuces, and spinach in the garden.  Transplant cabbages by the end of the month.
  • Soak your pea seeds in preparation for planting.  Just before planting, cover in legume inoculant.
  • Start tomatillos, ground cherries, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squashes (summer and winter) indoors.
  • Pre-sprout your potatoes for planting outdoors after they harden off.
  • Plant perennial vegetables.
  • Fertilize overwintering crops with nitrogen to perk them up.
  • Harvest spring ephemerals such as rhubarb, ramps, and spring garlic.
  • Harvest Leafy Greens and other remaining crops from the winter garden.

Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes

  • Finish planting bare root trees and shrubs.
  • Prune woody plants. Prune azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia, and other flowering shrubs when they are done blooming. Prune summer flowering shrubs before they put on new growth.
  • Control foliar diseases using compost tea on roses, apples, pears, cherry, etc.
  • Watch for currant worms.  Ideally, feed the worms to your chickens.
  • Graft fruit trees.
  • Fertilize and prune your berry bushes.
  • Divide and transplant strawberries and raspberries.
  • Check your trees and shrubs for insect or disease problems.
  • Spray fruit trees for fungal diseases such as scab and mildew.
  • Inoculate mushrooms in woodchip mulch, straw, or logs.


  • Label the locations of your bulbs for dividing in the fall.
  • Divide, transplant, and fertilize perennials.
  • Transplant any potted plants into larger containers.
  • Direct sow hardy flowers, such as Borage, Calendula, Feverfew, Love in a Mist, Mallow, Nasturtiums, and Flax.  In late April, sow half-hardy flowers such as Blazing Star, Canna, Chinese Aster, Cosmos, Flowering Tobacco, Lavaterra, Pincushion Flower, and Sunflowers.
  • Plant summer blooming bulbs or tubers including Gladiolas, Crocosmia, Dahlias, Calla Lilies, etc.
  • Take cuttings of early flowering perennial shrubs and bring indoors for forcing into bloom.

*** As always, please let me know if there is anything that you do in April in your garden that I have omitted from this task list. ***


“Weed” Plant ID

Here are a few pictures that I have taken of some plants considered “weeds” in my area.  Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for this post, I do not have many typical “weeds” to photograph at my house.  I went to the neighbors yards to take some of these pictures.  This list is in no way exhaustive and I hope to add more pictures for identification over time.  You can help by sending me pictures of some in your yard!

A weed could be defined as a plant that is thriving beyond what the gardener desires, such that it is experiencing a great ability to reproduce itself.  I just made that definition up but I hope that you catch the gist.

When I think about “weeds”, I think about opportunistic plants and I think about the seedbank that lies within my soil.  “Weeds” express the conditions of the site.  In a disturbed area, certain plants are the ones that germinate to build nutrients for the soil.  That is why many plants that are considered “weeds” are also dynamic accumulators (plants that help build nutrients for the soil and other plants in the community).  In my garden, I increase the seedbank in the soil by scattering lots of seeds.  This way the opportunistic plants that germinate in an available space are plants that both respond to the conditions of the soil and are plants that I want to grow.

If you are trying to get rid of a plant in your garden, it is important to learn how that plant reproduces so you can remove it at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.  Most “weeds” spread by seed.  You need to remove these plants from the garden before they flower to avoid any potential of having seed either in your garden or in your compost pile.  Sometimes, hot compost piles can kill weed seeds.  Just to be safe, I try to break the seeding cycle of unwanted plants in the garden by pulling them before they seed and composting them or feeding them to the chickens or rabbits.  As weeds are nutritious for the soil, they are often nutritious for us or our animals.  Make sure you have identified a plant correctly before you eat it or feed it to your animals.   i will indicate how the plants pictured below spread with their image.

Through careful observation over time, you can learn how to identify plants shortly after they germinate.  I hope these pictures aid you in identifying some plants in your landscape.  Please feel free to send any pictures of weedy plants in your yard.  Hopefully, I can identify them and I will add them to this compilation.

blackberry snapweed

Blackberry seeds are often deposited by birds.  The canes of Blackberry are mineral rich but need to be composted in a hot compost to prevent the canes from sprouting.  If you are trying to eradicate Blackberry, make sure you dig out the root ball for that is the concentration of energy underground for this plant.

Snapweed, also known as Bitter Cress or Shotput, is an edible weed that has spring action when the seeds mature.  My chickens love to eat this one.  Beware, if you wait too long to take this one out of the garden, it may hit you in the eye with a seed as it explores with the action of your touch!

bull thistle

Bull Thistle also spreads by seed.  The flowers turn to seed quickly so I try to pull this one as soon as I can, especially because it is so thorny.  Canadian Thistle is different and it spreads by horizontal runners which are difficult to remove.  Canadian Thistle needs to be pulled regularly (or mowed) and it will eventually lose energy and go away.  Both of these plants are dynamic accumulators of iron.


Cleavers is a sticky vining plant the spreads by seed.  It is related to Sweet Woodruff or Lady’s Bedstraw.


As many of us know from making a wish on a Dandelion seedhead, Dandelions spread by seed.  They are very nutritious.  You can eat the greens, roots, or flowers.  I have a whole cookbook dedicated to the Dandelion.

hairy cat's ear

The plant known as Hairy Cat’s Ear looks alot like Dandelion but it has a hairy leaf.  While Dandelion tends to flower in the spring and the fall, Hairy Cat’s Ear flowers in hotter weather, in the summer.  Hairy Cat’s Ear has multiple yellow flowers on its stalk and while they look like Dandelion, they are often a little bit smaller.  The stalk of Hairy Cat’s Ear is not as milky as Dandelion.  Both have similar seedheads that fly through the wind poetically.

ivy dead nettle

Dead Nettle spreads by seed.  It is easiest to identify and to pull once it is flowering as shown here.  It does not sting like Stinging Nettle.  The seeds (berries) of Ivy are spread by birds.  It is a vine that tends to strangle trees and other neighboring plants.

japanese knotweed

Japanese Knotweed can spread by crown, stem, or root rhizome.  You need to remove all of the plant material to completely eradicate this plant from your garden.

morning glory

Morning Glory has a flexible root.  It can spread by seed and its roots tend to break off in the soil when pulled.  Each of these broken roots will generate new plants.  To get rid of Morning Glory, you need to remove all plant material.


Nipplewort spreads by seed.  I find that Nipplewort is easiest to pull just before it begins flowering.  Little Nipplewort plants can be tedious to pull since they are so abundant.  As they grow, some plants die through competition.  Once they are large enough to pull, they are easy to remove and make great compost.

oxalis snapweed

Both snapweed and oxalis spread by seed.  Each of these plants have a pod that is filled with seeds that will pop open when it is ripe.  Ensure that you pull these plants before they create the seed.


Oxalis can have red leaves or green leaves.

wild geranium

Wild Geranium also spreads by seed.  The groundcover habit of this plant becomes increasingly sprawling as it gets older.  I find it easiest to pull at this size.

herb robert

Herb Robert is a type of Geranium, also known as Stinky Bob.  It looks pretty when it is young but as it grows, it expands quickly and drops alot of seed, which is why it is often considered a weed.  Some consider it’s smell foul as a mature plant.  Since it spreads by seed, you can prevent rampancy by pulling it out before it flowers or forms seed.  In my experience, it is quite easy to pull out of the soil.

yellow dock

Yellow Dock has a deep taproot and spreads biennially by seed.  If you cut off the seed, Yellow Dock will regenerate from its roots.  Yellow Dock is a great dynamic accumulator and it makes good compost.  It is also a great medicinal herb.  It can spread rapidly so you may want to keep an eye on it.

Favorite Heirloom Vegetable Seed Companies

These are my favorite seed companies.  All of them have taken the Safe Seed Pledge.

Adaptive Seeds:  http://www.adaptiveseeds.com/

Baker Creek Seeds:  http://www.rareseeds.com/

Nichols Garden Nursery:  https://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/store/

Peace Seedlings: http://www.peaceseedlingsseeds.blogspot.com/ 

Seed Dreams:  http://seeddreams.blogspot.com/

Siskiyou Seeds:  http://www.siskiyouseeds.com/

Uprising Seeds:  http://uprisingorganics.com/index.php

Wild Garden Seeds:  http://www.wildgardenseed.com/index.php

For more seed companies who have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and further information, visit:  http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/ViewPage.aspx?pageId=261