To Plant in April, or Not to Plant in April
...and How to Help the Pollinators!
By Sam Nunes, Environmental Educator - April 2018
Everyone with a garden is eager to get out and plant seeds when the weather starts to feel warmer and the snow starts to disappear. Especially after this past March, it’s not unusual to be excited about getting outside in the warm sun to sink your hands into the dirt. But be careful about starting your garden in April. Some people call April the deadliest month for planting. Although we get teased with pleasant spring days, we still have sporadic blasts of cold and frosty weather that could be fatal for your little seedlings.
If you just can’t wait or your plant needs to start growing early in the season, try starting your seeds indoors. Broccoli and lettuce are good examples of plants to start indoors. Make sure you take note of how much light each plant needs so you can meet their specific need. Some garden plants that do best with full sun include tomatoes and corn. Kale and lettuce prefer less direct sunlight.
As you decide what plants to put in your garden, think about adding some native pollinator plants! Pollinator plants promote healthy ecosystems and many plants and animals rely on pollination to grow and reproduce, including your garden plants. Pollinators need plants throughout the seasons and not all plants bloom at the same time. For early spring bloomers, try golden Alexanders and spiderwort which have delicate flowers that will attract your eye as well as the pollinators’. Native wild geranium (Geranium Maculatum) is a common favorite as well and has vibrant flowers that are also sure to please.
In the heat of the summer is when New England’s asters and wild bergamot, or bee-balm, bloom. Some plants play very important roles in the lifecycles of our favorite pollinators. For example, Milkweed is especially important for monarch butterflies, which rely only on the plant as a food source in their larval stage. Butterflies need nectar plants, but they also need larval host plants. Some other host plants to consider are buttonbush, a shrub, and northern wild senna.
During the fall, as the temperatures go down, is when we start to see Sunflowers, and Goldenrod. Woodland Sunflowers, Connecticut’s only native sunflower, grow many feet tall and are attractive beacons to your garden. The seeds feed songbirds who help control the insect population in your area. Goldenrod, often confused with ragweed, is not an allergen because it reproduces by pollination. It does not release its pollen into the air like ragweed, which is responsible for allergic reactions. In fact, goldenrod has many medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and more!
Pollinator plants would not only add beauty to your garden, but also promote healthy honey bee and butterfly populations, as well as healthy vegetables in your garden!