Here's a rundown of what you can be doing in the garden this month.
Now's a great time to think about vegetable gardening. It's fun -- and you can reduce your grocery bills by growing your own food.
Plant cool-season vegetables, such as radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, outdoors as soon as you can work the ground this month -- these plants survive frosty weather. Don't forget to add some pansies to your spring vegetable garden -- they'll add color, and you can use them in salads.
Start seeds of your favorite warm-season varieties, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, indoors under fluorescent lights to get a head start on the gardening season.
Now's also a great time to get out and prune your fruit trees (including apple, pear, and cherry trees), as well as fruits such as raspberries and grapes.
Go ahead and prune summer-blooming shrubs such as butterfly bush and rose of Sharon that grew out-of-bounds last year. But hold off pruning your spring-blooming shrubs (such as forsythia and lilacs) -- take the shears to them only after they've finished blooming.
It's also the time to prune your roses. Cut back hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses to about 4-6 inches tall.
Learn more about pruning roses.
While you have your pruners out, take a look at trees in your landscape to see if any of them need pruning. Now's a great time to do it. However, hold off on pruning oaks and walnuts to reduce the threat of disease.
Click here for more pruning tips.
Check that your tools are in good working order before the gardening season takes off. Use a file to sharpen the edges of your shovel, hoe, and pruners -- sharp edges make them easier to use.
See more tool-care tips.
Later this month is the ideal time to start dividing perennials. Most perennials do best when divided every three years or so, but some vigorous growers could use splitting every other year.
Here's a hint: It's best to wait and divide many spring-blooming favorites such as bleeding heart and barrenwort after they've finished blooming.
As the weather warms up, get outside and begin to cut back dead stems of any perennials or grasses that you left standing over winter.
Here's a hint: Leave the stems about 3 or 4 inches tall -- this helps you remember where late-waking flowers such as perennial hibiscus and butterfly weed are. Plus, the stubs might deter bunnies and other critters from nibbling on your perennials' new growth.
Watch for your perennials to start to put on new growth. Once they do, remove winter mulch from your beds and borders. Throw the mulch in the compost pile so you can use it to enrich your soil. Watch for weeds -- early-season pests such as chickweed and henbit don't mind cool temperatures and might start sprouting near the end of the month.
If annual weeds such as crabgrass are a problem in your yard, stop them in their tracks by applying a pre-emergence herbicide. Watch for your forsythia to bloom -- that's typically a good indicator of when it's best to treat your lawn for crabgrass.
Even though your grass might be starting to green up, it's probably too early to fertilize. Wait a month or so until your grass is actively growing before feeding it.
As the days grow longer, you'll probably start to see more growth on your houseplants. You can typically start watering and feeding them a little more this month to help them push new growth.
Take cuttings from your favorite houseplants if you want to use any outdoors this summer. For example, spider plants can make a fun edging plant or groundcover in shade. Let philodendron or pothos start to climb a tree.
Here's a hint: Check if there's a layer of dust on your plants' leaves. If there is, wash it off with lukewarm or room-temperature water. This will allow more light to reach the leaves, so your plants can grow and bloom better.
Here in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden we use a lot of tools. Here are 5 we think every gardener should have. This type of hoe, often known as a hula-hoe but sometimes by other names, is been around for decades and is still the best general weeding hoe. In back and forth action, lets you cut weeds in both direction and it's designed not to dig in deeply so it glides back and forth with less effort than a tropic action of a typical hoe. When it comes to digging holes, a planting spade beats a regular shovel every time. Its long narrow blade penetrates the ground more easily and the handle is straight rather than angled which makes it easy to dig a straight side of planting hole. Here's another substitute for shovel. Spading forks make soil much better than shovels so they're better for chilling flower beds and vegetable gardens. They also help you [unk] a perennials for dividing without cutting all the roots like the shovel will. Once you use the fork, you'll see how much better it is for turning soil or dividing perennials. For planting bulbs an auger is a good substitute for [unk] especially for hard soil or tight spaces between plants. Most gardeners are familiar with augers like this 2-inch model. But for small bulbs, this narrower version is far superior. It digs into lawns without making too large of a whole and requires a lot less power to use than a larger Augers so it works even with smaller cordless drills. The smaller size is just right for planting crops and great vines and bulbs. And here's another trick. Use it to dig holes around trees and pour in your own fertilizer instead of using tree spikes or deep root feeders. Every gardener needs a good pair of shears that scissor-type snips like this one from OXO are easier to use for like trimming like [unk], cutting flowers or harvesting vegetables. The long straight blades have good reach and light beauty snips way less than regular shears. So they are less tiring to use.
Lawn professionals usually do a great job, but most of the services they provide are easy to do yourself for a fraction of the cost. Fertilize at least 3 times a year, once in late August or early September, once in October and in spring as the grass starts to green up. If you water your lawn in the summer, also fertilize in June. Apply a weed preventer in spring to keep out crab grass, foxtail and other annual weeds. It's convenient to buy fertilizer with weed preventer mixed in so you can apply both at the same time. Few lawn pests are as damaging as grouts, but an application of grub control easily stops the damage before it starts. Light infestations of dandelions and other broadleaf weeds can easily be controlled with a hand tool. Heavier infestations and spreading weeds like white clover are difficult to remove by hand. So, use a broadleaf weed killer if necessary. Spot spray rather than covering the entire lawn to reduce the amount of chemical you use. To reduce compaction and thatch, use a core aerator when soil is moist and grass is actively growing. Spring and fall are the best times. Don't remove the cores. Let them stay on the lawn surface like this. A small manual aerator like this one is useful for very small arms or highly traffic spots. But for a full-sized lawn, rent a powered aerator. Whether you hire a lawn servicer or do it yourself, you should always mower the grass tall at 2 to 3 inches. This creates a healthier, more weed-free lawn. Finally, repair dead spots in fall or early spring, even the best lawn care can't prevent a few brown patches. But they're easy to fix with a product especially made for patch repair.