Perennials: Carefully remove the mulches from perennial beds keeping some handy in case of a freezing spell. Spray emerging tulips and day lilies with deer repellent to prevent nibbling by pests. Keep a journal and photographs of location and bloom time of bulbs as an aid for planning new bulb beds in the fall. Begin weeding as soon as weeds appear, being careful not to damage emerging plants.
Flowers: Purchase pansy plants for instant color in planters.
Vegetables and fruits: Fertilize rhubarb and asparagus. Cut back raspberry canes that fruited last summer and thin and top off new canes. Continue pruning fruit trees and grape vines. In warmer parts of the Lower Hudson Valley, start seeds of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to set out in 5-7 weeks. Wait a week or so in the north.
Trees and shrubs: Apply deer repellent as new growth appears, using a variety of products. New ones continue to appear on the market, but none work as long as they claim. West Virginia Botanic Garden uses milk (diluted with water 3-1) with positive results. Prune hydrangeas and buddleia (when the first new shoots appear) and other late blooming shrubs. Prune the older canes of red osier dogwood.
Lawns: Rake vigorously to remove winter debris and thatch. Reseed bare spots. Control wild onion, chickweed and dandelions with spot treatment. Fertilization is not recommended at this time. The wise lawn gardener waits until Memorial Day for the first application of the season.
Houseplants: Continue fertilizing on a regular schedule. Check carefully for insect infestation. If a south window becomes too warm move them to a west or east window. Repot if needed.
General: Collect information or attend workshops on invasive plants and how to eradicate them before they gain a foothold in the backyard.
— Susan Henry, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester