Garden Chores for April 2021

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Bulbs are blooming early this year!

There's a comprehensive list of garden chores for April that MSHS published a year ago, recommending things like:

  • starting seeds indoors
  • applying pre-emergent herbicide to the lawn, if desired
  • dividing perennials and
  • putting out a pansy bowl for front-yard color.

In this post, I want to focus on three garden chores for April to pay special attention to in 2021.

Watch the Weather

What the heck is going on this spring? After a pretty normal winter, we are having a spring that seems to be 10 days to two weeks ahead of "normal." According to Accuweather, high temperatures in Minneapolis were only below normal on four days during the month of March—and often were 10 to 20 degrees above normal. Lows were below normal only three times. The same trend is at work in northern Minnesota, too. (Check out the statistics for Brainerd for an example.) Highs in the 40s, 50s and above throughout March have prompted bulbs to bloom early and are waking up shrubs and perennials.

As I write this on April 5, the long-range forecast for the Twin Cities has no lows under 32 degrees going as far out as April 20. In a typical year, the last frost date for the Twin Cities is somewhere in the last week of April, first week of May. But, of course, we can have snow into May.  Which brings up item number 2:

Clean Up Slowly

What's a gardener to do when the weather seems so ahead of normal? My plan is to stick pretty close to the normal clean up schedule with a bit of modification. I've already started tomatoes, peppers, annual flowers and greens indoors on the dates I usually would. As they mature, I may put a few things outside early to "harden off but with the knowledge that they may require a layer of plastic or some other covering, if we get a cold night. I did plant peas outside on April 4—earlier than ever, so fingers crossed. I'm also planning to scatter some grass seed in my lawn to fill in the bare spots. (You could also start a bee lawn, if you'd like.)

We'll be getting some rain this week, which will wake up a lot of  plants. After that, I'll probably start cleaning up the garden more seriously, by cutting back perennials and pulling the weeds that emerge. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has a week-by-week list of garden chores for April that is worth checking out. I'll also be cleaning out and re-filling my birdbath and adding compost to the raised garden beds. Don't kill yourself trying to do your cleanup all at once -- start closest to your house, then move out and clean up areas one by one. Stop from time to time to admire the spring bulbs. Other than the pansy bowls and maybe a bowl with lettuce, I will wait until May to set out containers.

Buy Bulbs for Summer

bulbsAnother thing you can do in April no matter the weather is buy bulbs for summer color. MSHS has a great selection of bulbs that you can purchase online and they pick up the first weekend in May (or have them shipped). These are top-quality bulbs -- and, they can be planted as soon as you get them.

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  1. Karen L Bracht on April 13, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    The photo of the early iris — what variety are they and where can they be bought? I had some years ago, and they have since disappeared. I would love to find some again.

  2. Karen Williams on April 13, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    Oh my! Please share the name of the little iris in the top photo!

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 20, 2021 at 3:15 pm

      ‘Katherine Hodgkins’ iris or ‘Harmony’ iris. Most folks think Katherine Hodgkins.

  3. Judith Lacey on April 14, 2021 at 3:46 am

    I agree with Karen. They are beautiful and I am also interested in their name. Judy Lacey

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 15, 2021 at 2:09 pm

      We’re not positive, but the consensus is it’s either ‘Katherine Hodgkins’ or ‘Harmony’ dwarf iris.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 20, 2021 at 3:15 pm

      ‘Katherine Hodgkins’ iris or ‘Harmony’ iris. Most folks think Katherine Hodgkins.

  4. Dan Wagner on April 14, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    I agree what is the flower name in the top photo.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 15, 2021 at 2:08 pm

      It’s an Iris reticulata, which bloom super early. The variety is either ‘Katherine Hodgkins’ or ‘Harmony.’ The photo was taken at a garden in my neighborhood so I’m not positive.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 20, 2021 at 3:15 pm

      ‘Katherine Hodgkins’ iris or ‘Harmony’ iris. Most folks think Katherine Hodgkins.

  5. Maria smith (gardening blogger) on April 20, 2021 at 2:14 am

    Amazing blog with very much helpful information.Thanks for sharing

  6. Babs Salminen on April 22, 2021 at 1:36 am

    You mentioned planting bulbs now in May. will they come up and flower this spring, early summer?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 27, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      Summer bulbs — lilies, dahlias, calla lilies, etc. — will bloom in summer. Spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils and tulips should be planted in fall. Hope this helps!

  7. Daniel Schulz on May 9, 2021 at 11:56 am

    I guess that didn’t work out the way you thought it would. Just west of the Twin Cities we are having a horribly cold April and May. After the first week of April, nothing but below average temperatures. Here is is May 9th, and it frosted again, with another frost expected tonight. Yesterday my garden hose was frozen solid – in the middle of may a hard freeze. Climate change has resulted in mild winters and cold springs. It has been this way, getting worse for over twenty years. I know because I’ve been complaining to my friends about it for over ten years.

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