Hello dear gardening friends! Our wait is finally over, spring is blooming all around us. Azaleas, daffodils and many other spring plants are blooming. It’s the perfect time to enjoy our wonderful scenery here in Southeast Texas, but it’s also the perfect time to get out into your own backyard to create your own personal paradise. There are many gardening tasks to do during the month of April, and here are some items for your list.
Vegetables: Growing vegetables at home has become a national trend that continues to grow every year. People grow fruits and vegetables, for many different reasons, in their garden and landscape. So, you might be wondering which vegetables are best planted now? You’ll want to hurry and get your tomato transplants and plant them now. Larger transplants will start producing tomatoes earlier, which is a good thing because once the summer heat sets in and temperatures rise, the tomatoes will stop producing fruit. Now is also a great time to plant peppers which, unlike tomatoes, will not tolerate cool air or soil temperatures and will definitely stunt when exposed to cooler conditions. Pepper plants are perfect for setting up in sunny spots in the landscape, flower beds, or planted in containers. Not only are they very productive, but they are also colorful, especially if you let the fruit stay longer on the plant, until it reaches its mature color. But remember when planting peppers that unlike tomatoes, peppers don’t like to be buried deep when transplanting.
There are many other vegetables that can be planted in April, including bush and pole beans, cucumber, eggplant, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, summer and winter squash, Swiss chard, chard, lettuce, arugula, bok choi and watermelon, so plant your family favorites. You will want to wait until late April for warmer soil temperatures for okra and southern peas. For the highest yields, fertilize vegetables as a side dressing (add fertilizer in a channel next to the plant) every two weeks. Begin fertilizing one month after transplanting or sowing, as this will allow all vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers, to grow vigorously for a bumper harvest.
A large area is not needed to grow vegetables. If you think your garden is a bit small for a traditional garden, use containers to create micro-gardens. Any type of container that can hold soil can work, but it should have drainage holes and be at least 3 gallons, preferably larger because the bigger the container the better for your plants. A quality potting soil is essential and avoid using soil from your garden. Grow dwarf or bushy varieties to concentrate production, train plants vertically using stakes or trellises. Remember, just like in a traditional garden, the fuller and more direct the sun, the better! Container gardens require a little more attention and will require more frequent watering, as the soil tends to dry out more quickly. Container gardens also need repeated additions of fertilizer that will compensate for more frequent irrigation. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the potting soil and supplement with fortnightly applications of a water-soluble fertilizer.
Fruit trees and berries: It is best to avoid the temptation and not buy bare root fruit trees now, even if they are a great bargain! You will want to look for container grown fruit trees as they will establish themselves in your landscape and provide the best results. Berries and fruit trees that are easy to grow in Southeast Texas include blueberries, blackberries, figs, and Japanese persimmons, to name a few.
Lawns: If you want to fertilize your lawn, April is the month to start fertilizing lawns. The ideal time to apply the fertilizer is after you mow the growing green grass (not the weeds). I suggest mowing the lawn once or even twice before applying fertilizer. Early to mid-April is a good target date for St. Augustine and Bermuda Commons. Delay Centipede fertilization until May. For best results, have your soil tested for pH and fertility before applying fertilizer. Contact your local extension office for advice on capturing lawn soil samples and where to send the samples. The cost of soil testing is minimal, $10-15, and the results will provide you with the information you need to make decisions about proper lawn maintenance. Soil testing information is available from each county extension office or on the web at http://soiltesting.tamu edu and search for the “Forms” link.
Flowering Plants: Many plants with summer flowers and colorful foliage are best planted now. There are many to choose from including annuals, perennials and bulbs, bulbs and tubers such as gladioli, caladiums and dahlias.
Annual flowers include Amaranthus, celosia, cleome (spider flower). cosmos, marigold, portulaca, zinnia and gomphrena. All of these can be sown directly into the beds where they are to grow. Seeded areas should be kept moist until the seeds sprout, then thin out when the plants are large enough to transplant, to minimize crowding. For a wonderful gift, donate surplus plants to friends, neighbors, relatives, plant them in another location, or put them in a container. To minimize and prevent disease in your flower and vegetable beds, rotate the types of plants grown in the same location from year to year. For example, don’t plant begonias or impatiens in the same spot every year. Use different, unrelated plants that add variety to your landscape. Experiment with a new plant that you have never tried before. Annuals for shady locations include New Guinea impatiens, coleus, perilla, Persian shield, chicken gizzards (Iresine), caladiums, nicotiana, annual salvias, begonias and torenias (flowers triangular).
Perennials are wonderful plants for the garden, with a wide assortment offering structure, form and color, and without the need to replant every year. There are perennials for every landscape situation. Roses are available this month in bud and bloom in 2 or 3 gallon pots. Heirloom and shrub roses are sold in containers of 1 gallon or more and are usually grown on their own rootstock rather than being grafted.
Trees and Shrubs: April is also a good month to add trees and shrubs to the landscape. Resist buying attractive nursery plants that don’t fit into your overall landscaping plan. Otherwise, your garden can quickly become overgrown, cluttered, or look messy. Preparation is key, so do it right from the start, my suggestion is to spend your time and hard-earned money preparing the bed for the shrubs and flowers! They’ll be there for a long time and you want to do it right from the start, so mix in plenty of organic material like aged compost, peat moss, or coir. All good gardening should start with a soil test, as it will tell you what nutrients to add, for the type of plants you plan to grow. Happy gardening!
If you have specific gardening questions or need more information, contact the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline: (409) 882-7010 or visit our website: https://txmg.org/orangeFacebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association or email: [email protected]