April Lawn & Garden To-Do List

Dogwood branch with blooms

Spring can be an antsy time in the garden. The weather is warming, evening sunlight coaxes us outdoors, trees and spring bulbs are showing off blooms, yet cold weather threatens the eager gardener who gets started too early.

Nevertheless, as lawns and gardens (and gardeners) begin to wake up in April, the mad rush of planting, pruning, plowing, and sprucing descends with joyful, muddy industriousness.

Camellia bush with dark pink blooms

Trees and Shrubs

If your trees and shrubs are still dormant:

  • Prune any dormant trees and nonflowering shrubs.
  • Plant and transplant bare-root, balled-and-burlapped, and container-grown trees and shrubs.
  • Plant roses just as the buds swell.
  • Apply dormant spray.

If trees and shrubs are growing and freezing weather has passed:

  • Continue planting container-grown trees and shrubs.
  • Fertilize trees and shrubs.
  • Lightly shear your needled evergreens, being careful not to cut back to bare wood.
  • Prune nonflowering shrubs.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.
  • Prune summer and fall flowering shrubs before they set flower buds.
  • Remove any dead wood as a result of cold or storm damage.
  • Uncover winterized roses.
  • Feed roses when green growth is about 2” long.
  • Apply fungicide to get a head start on black spot.
  • Address insects and pests as soon as you spot them. Be on the lookout for aphids – they love tender green shoots.
  • Avoid spraying insecticides on blooming trees and shrubs – so as not to harm bees and other pollinating insects!

young hyacinth bulb

Perennials and Bulbs

Before the last frost:

  • Cut back dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grasses. Be careful not to cut new growth!
  • Plant, divide, and transplant perennials.
  • Gradually remove winter mulch from perennials when they begin to grow. Keep mulch handy in case of a surprise late freeze.
  • Fertilize spring-blooming bulbs (daffodils, hyacinths, etc.) after they bloom. Leave the foliage in place to nourish next year’s blooms.
  • Give tender bulbs a head start by potting them indoors.

After the last frost:

  • Plant any tender bulbs outdoors.
  • Continue planting perennials, summer bulbs, groundcovers, and ornamental grasses.
  • Plant gift chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, spring bulbs, and azaleas outdoors. Some gift varieties are not cold-hardy, so check the variety before leaving it out over next winter.

Annuals and Containers

  • Deadhead flowers to promote more blooms.
  • Clean and sanitize summer containers, and plan your design for this summer.
  • Start summer annual seeds indoors.
  • Plant summer annuals (petunias, cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, etc.) after the last frost. Be sure to bring them indoors (or cover them with cloth) during a late cold snap.

Fertilizing a lawn


Before the last frost:

After the last frost:

herb seed packets in gardening container

Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Before the last frost:

  • Plant fruit trees.
  • Till your vegetable garden as soon as the soil is dry and crumbly. Add amendments, and let the soil settle for about a week.
  • Grow cool-season vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, beets, radishes, peas, and carrots.
  • Plant asparagus, rhubarb, and berries.
  • Start seeds indoors for summer vegetables and annual herbs.
  • Plant perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and lavender.

After the last frost:

  • Plant summer vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, squash, and peppers) outdoors.
  • Plant annual herbs such as basil and cilantro.
  • Remove mulch from strawberry beds.

houseplants in front of window


In colder climates:

  • Repot, prune, and feed your houseplants.
  • Address insect or disease problems immediately.
  • Give a little more water to cacti and succulents that are blooming or actively growing.

As the weather warms:

  • Move houseplants gradually outdoors once night temperatures stay above 55° F.
  • If you grouped your houseplants in a warm spot for the winter, you can move them back to their places.
  • Care for an Easter lily by keeping it in a cool spot with indirect, bright light.

Hands with garden gloves holding mulch

Cleanup and Maintenance

  • Visit a garden center and take in the breathtaking array of plants. Try something new this year!
  • Clean water features and lawn ornaments.
  • Clean out, inspect, and repair bird houses, for the spring nesting season.
  • Put out plenty of food for hungry migrating birds!
  • Watch for hummingbirds on their journey north.
  • Observe your garden during the spring thaw and rains. Note and address any drainage problems.
  • Give your yard a good spring cleaning to eliminate hiding places for insects and critters.
  • Add trellises, stakes, and supportive structures to top-heavy plants (such as peonies) before they need them!
  • After the last frost, begin hardening your seedlings by moving them to a sheltered spot outdoors.
  • After the last frost, add aquatic plants to your pond or fountain.
  • Start feeding your pond fish when water temperatures are above 50° F.
  • Apply mulch. Consider adding an organic weed preventer, such as corn gluten, under your mulch to save work later.
  • Check out irrigation systems once freezing weather has passed.
  • Postpone garden work if the soil is soggy.
  • Spread and incorporate winter compost, and start a spring compost pile.
  • Test soil to determine what amendments are needed.

Further Information


  1. Danny,
    I like the idea of your Monthly To-Do List. Only wish it would could be printed as a 1-page checklist with title line items only. I end up rewriting instead of copying the 4 to 5 pages with details.
    Just a thought. Thanks for the Monthly Tips.

  2. Great article, Julie. Been visiting this site for a while now, and it never disappoints. I was curious if you’ve written any articles (or have suggestions) about eco-friendly landscaping. My kids are pushing me to be more “green,” so I’m looking around for tips. I saw an article earlier today (http://www.homeimprovementadvisors.com/10-ways-to-make-your-landscape-greener-this-spring/) but don’t know whether these are good suggestions or not. Do you have any ideas to share?

  3. Thanks, Steve! The article you posted has some great tips. The best ways to make our gardens eco-friendly are by working more in harmony with our environment (instead of trying to alter the environment to fit our whims), using native plants and natural nutrient sources (such as compost), and reducing our reliance on chemical, mechanical, or synthetic shortcuts (which leads to increased physical exercise and healthier gardeners!). Mother Nature got it right – we just need to follow her lead. Look for more articles to come on this subject – it’s an important one.

  4. John,
    We added a printable list to the April To-Do List article above, and will do so to similiar articles in the future. Just click on the link at the top or bottom of the article to see it. Thanks for your suggestion!


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