It's always this way in the garden: You cool your heels for weeks waiting for the weather to warm. Then suddenly in April one beautiful day comes along. The trees seem almost to leaf out overnight. And from that moment on until . . . well, probably November . . . you can never get caught up with all the work.
So here we are. That one beautiful day has come and gone. And there will never again be enough hours in the weekend to get everything done. Here is a list of chores (as if you needed more):
* If you received a lily for Easter, put it in a place where it receives bright light but not direct sunlight. Cool temperatures will keep it happiest -- in the 60s during the day and in the 40s at night. An enclosed sun porch would be a good home for it, but if you don't spend much time there, don't be afraid to bring it into your kitchen or living room for a few hours during the day or evening to enjoy its blossoms. Keep the soil moist. You can plant it outdoors after mid-May in a sunny spot.
* In the vegetable garden, there's still time to plant the early spring crops: leaf and head lettuce, carrots, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, collards, mustard, leeks, shallots, endive, horseradish, salsify, beets, turnips and parsley, and transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas, potatoes and cabbage. But you're pushing the deadline on garlic, chives, asparagus, kale, onion sets, rhubarb and spinach.
* Day lilies are beginning to come up in the perennial garden. If your plantings are getting too thick, you can divide them now or wait until after they bloom. Chrysanthemums can also be divided now.
* Plant other flowering perennials now. Leave plenty of room between plants for future growth.
* Don't let the grass get too high before you mow the lawn. It's hard on the plants if they lose too much of their leaf area at one time.
* It's time to start worrying about the bugs that think of your plants as lunch. But wait a moment before you grab the sprayer and blast every creepy critter in sight. Go instead to the nearest bookstore for a copy of a new book: "Common Sense Pest Control" (Taunton Press, hardcover, $39.95) by William Olkowski, Sheila Daar and Helga Olkowski. Its subtitle is "Least-toxic solutions for home, garden, pets and community," and within its 720 pages this encyclopedic book gives ways to fight off every insect you can imagine but still keep your kids, your pets and the beneficial insects healthy.
This is one of those books you will wonder how you ever lived without. Multiple solutions are given for each pest and the relative toxicity of each one is explained. If you have school-age children who are interested in the environment, you might make using this book a family project to study and choose the safest ways of controlling bugs in the garden.
* One of the ways to develop a beautiful landscape is to start making notes on what plants bloom together. It may seem like a tiresome, overly compulsive chore, but one of the hallmarks of a well-thought-out garden is the little vignettes of plants that flower together. Rather than have a blip of white at one end of your yard at the same time you have a blip of pink at the other, you'll know to plant those two plants side by side near the doorstep so you can enjoy their combination of colors.
Keep an eye on your neighbors' gardens too. If you can swap plants that flower together, you'll both get an extra bonus.