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Yes, You Can Garden Now

Yes, You Can Garden Now

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Yes, You Can Garden Now

There is an opportunity to squeeze much more gardening from the month of April than you likely realize. By “squeeze” we mean enjoy, well before what has traditionally been the start of the gardening season in May.

Sow and Grow

Start vegetable and flowers seeds indoors now. Many garden seeds can be sown now indoors. Frost tender flowers like marigolds, alyssum, zinnias, cosmos and a host more should be started in the next couple of weeks either under grow lights or in a sunny window. Same with tubers of dahlias and tuberous begonias.

There are many opportunities to sow crops directly in your garden. Onions by seed and bulb, carrots, beets, kale, radishes, Swiss chard and peas can be sown now. Prepare the soil by turning it with a garden fork or spade once, bang the clumps out of it and add lots of compost. For root crops, add generous quantities of sharp (sand box) sand at least 30 cm deep to open the soil up and improve drainage.

Wait a few more weeks for flowers that are cold hardy, as we do expect frost for the next 6 weeks in the GTA (zone 6 and north of Highway 7, zone 5). Sow calendula (pot marigold), dusty miller and alyssum outdoors any time from April 15 onwards.


All woody, winter hardy plants are good to go for April planting.

If the plant is dormant and leafless when you buy it you know that it is in its natural state, versus forced in a greenhouse. It is important to know the difference. A plant that is in full leaf is soft and susceptible to frost damage. A dormant tree, shrub or rose plant is naturally protected from temperatures below 0 Celsius. It might not be as attractive but it will transplant more easily.

Perennial divisions

Perennial divisions from your own garden or that of a friend or neighbour, can be planted now. Again, if you are shopping for perennials and they have soft green foliage or flowers, it is best not to plant them yet as the new growth is frost tender. But a dormant hosta or rhubarb root is safe to dig and transplant now. This is the perfect time of year to move most herbaceous perennials around your yard or divide the mature ones and give away the divisions.

Prune fruit trees

Apples, peaches, plums, cherries: most fruit trees respond best to an early spring pruning. As a rule of thumb, we remove up to one third of the growth, concentrating on the upright growing water sprouts and the criss-crossing branches in the interior of the tree.

Perennial food plants

Asparagus, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and the like, are best planted in April, while they are dormant. Buy strawberry plants as one year old roots and plant in compost-rich soil about 30 cm apart.

Raspberries are usually sold as rooted cuttings, about 30 cm high. Plant them out about 50 cm apart. Don’t wait for May, get out in the garden now.

Mark Cullen
Mark Cullen
Ben Cullen
Ben Cullen

Mark and Ben Cullen, professional gardeners, are broadcasters, writers, and public speakers.

Check out their latest podcast.


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BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

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BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

by Lisa Rogers

Container gardening on balconies and patios can create outdoor magic

After a long, cold winter, we’re all itching to get outside, head to our little backyard oasis and raise our faces to the sun.

Just because you live in a condo or a townhome, doesn’t mean you can’t have a lush beautiful garden. And just because you live in a house nothing says that your leafy oasis has to be on the ground.

Anyone can have a gorgeous garden right on the deck or balcony with a little pre-planning, some fundamental principles and great looking containers.


Figure out how much room there is and the type of exposure – higher floors on a condo create different planting zones because they are more exposed to harsh sun and wind. Check with the nursery to see which plants are hardiest under whatever conditions you have.

Calculate the amount of sun – and whether it’s morning or afternoon sun – to determine the type of plants. If there’s a lot of shade, you’ll be checking out impatiens, periwinkle, hostas and hydrangeas, while geraniums, salvia, coneflowers and peonies are sun worshipers. To create pockets of shade, try planter boxes along the railing, letting the ivy trail and providing cover for plants below.


You want to enjoy the garden not just outside but from every vantage point inside as well, so figure out the views to coordinate colours and feel. Alternately, maybe your clean-lined modern interior would benefit from a riot of colour to draw the eye outside.

Keep proportion and ratio in mind; vary the heights of plants by mixing tall plants like palms or tropical trees with shorter bushes. Tall plants also create privacy from neighbours, as do trellises, but check with your condo board to see if you’re allowed to build. Add a couple of comfy chairs and a small table and you’ve created an oasis.

Decide on a colour scheme – not only simple and elegant, it will restrain you from buying every plant in the store. Choose two or three plants and repeat them. It saves money in the long run and creates a unified look that is calming and easier to care for.


They come in such a variety of sizes and they’ll help with the varied heights. Buy in durable lightweight materials that look like wood or stone as they’re easier to move around. And so easy – no mulch, weeding or digging.

If you like a clean look, choose identical containers that complement simple plant colours such as glossy green leaves and white blooms. If it’s a cottagey effect you’re after, use anything. An old metal wash bucket for growing herbs, wire egg baskets for hanging planters for those coral geraniums and pink begonias. Add in lime green or silvery foliage.

You can also use perennials in your containers. Although they don’t spread quite like annuals and, if you’re in a condo, you’re not likely to overwinter them.


Place the tallest plant in the centre of the pot and lower the heights as you move outward. For example, a tall tree or bush like hibiscus or Mandevilla, surrounded by shorter transition plants and at the edge add trailers. Spend money on plants that spread – impatiens, portulacas, various ivy like periwinkle and pachysandra – but leave enough room in the pot for them to grow otherwise they’ll die off after a month.

Bring out your indoor plants – they flourish outdoors in the summer as long as you keep an eye on sun exposure, which can burn them. Rubber plants, schefflera and Christmas cactus are ideal for the outside.

When grouping containers, remember the 3-5-7 principle — grouping in threes or fives or sevens. If you’re attaching pots to the fence, position at eye level because if they’re placed on top of the rail, you’ll see only the bottom of the pot when sitting down.

And finally, do add some garden accents. There’s nothing like the sound of water burbling all summer so add a water feature. Add a fire pit while you’re at it — summer evenings can be chilly, though it’s also handy to have a basket of pashminas at the ready for wrapping around your shoulders.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes.

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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