Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gardening Tips for April

--by Pat Kriener, Master Gardener and Village interpreter

The Mesquites are leafing out and to Texans that means winter is over. Does that mean we throw caution to the wind and plant everything we can get our hand on? Well yes it does...but we were doing that last month anyway.  Now we have nature's blessing. Spring weather in Texas is unpredictable at best with warm temps as high as 90 degrees to snow on yes, Texas gardeners are in the midst of a planting frenzy with the hopes that the Mesquite is correct once again.

  • Annuals - The garden centers are full of color so get out there and spruce up your beds just in time for Easter. Don’t toss your cool annuals just yet; they will look good for another few months.  Plant your spring and summer color in front or between existing plants. Remember many of our cool weather flowers are edible; just think of the salad you could serve by adding a few edible flowers from your impatiens, pansies, violas, dianthus, nasturtium or calendulas. Collect seeds from annual phlox, sweet pea, larkspur, poppies, nasturtium, calendula & viola. 
  •  Bulbs – Summer Blooming Bulbs For Shade - achimenes, alpinia. Arum, bletilla, caladium, clivia, costus, crinum, curuma, globba, hedychium, hymenocallis, kaemferia, oxalis, walking irks.  For Sun - agapanthus, belamcanda, cannas, crinum, crocosmia, dahlia, dietes, eucomis, garlic chives, gladiolus, glorisa lily, habranthus, hymenocallis, iris, lilies, oxalis, tigridia, society garlic, zephyranthes. Don’t throw away those Easter Lilies! As soon as the blooms fade, trim them off but do not remove the green foliage. Plant in well-drained soil that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. In late summer when they go dormant and the foliage begins to fade and yellow, remove foliage.
  • Compost Bin - Make a new compost bin with a length of chicken wire 7 feet long. Attach one end to an existing fence then attach the other end to the fence to create a circle. You could just put a tie T-post in the location you want and attach both ends of the wire for your circle. Now just toss all clipping, leaves, vegetables and garden waste in the circle of your new compost bin.

  • Containers - For those of you with limited space or who just love to container garden, the garden centers are full of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables and more.  Try something new--make your own Upside Down Tomato Planter! Take an old hanging basket and cut a 4-inch hole in the bottom then place a 4-inch tomato plant through the hole. Place coffee filters around the outside of the hole or moss to help keep the plant firmly in place. Fill the top of the planter with potting soil and 2 cups of worm castings. 

  • Herbs - Sow seeds of hardy plants directly in the soil, check daily for germination. For existing herbs, divide large clumps, cut back winter damage, take cuttings, clean containers, top dress, mulch and plant the following easy to grow herbs. Plant basil, chives, catmint, lemon balm, lemon grass, mints, oregano, parsley  & rosemary.

  • Greenhouse - Your over-wintering plants should be taken out of the greenhouse for good by mid April. Mine are already out but have been for most of the winter. In the greenhouse always watch temperatures and airflow. Start summer vegetables and annuals that can be planted 6 to 8 weeks.  Those of you who have plastic covered greenhouses it’s almost time to convert your greenhouse for the summer with shade-cloth.

  • Lawn - Mowing season is here and I know many of you might want to do a little research into “Lawn Reduction”. Save money and time by creating native landscapes to reduce the size of your yard so you do not have so much space to mow, fertilize or water.

  • Mulch - every bed I put newspaper/cardboard down and covered with mulch are virtually weed free but the beds I was going to get to this month are covered in grass & weeds. So I am going to do it now so my plants and I will not have to deal weeds in the summer heat. 

  • Perennials - Texas Hardy Perennials - Full Sun  - Artemesia “Powis Castle”, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Guara, coreopsis, Purple Coneflower, Ox-eyed daisy, salvia, Texas Lantana, Rock Rose, Russian sage, Sedum, Yarrow For Shade -  Coral Bells, Texas Columbine, Inland sea Oats, Iris, Lyre leaf sage, Turk’s Cap, Wood Violet & Zexmenia.

  • Problems - snails and slugs are a problem with our seedlings and other plants.  Try placing eggshell or crushed seashell around plants to discourage them. Fire Ants are always trouble--call the Extension Office (817-556-6370) for a free brochure called  “The Texas Two-Step”

  • Pruning - Wait to prune spring bloomers after they have finished blooming.

  • Roses - Plant EarthKind Rose for virtually pest and maintenance free roses.

  •  Trees - If needed prune back spring flowering trees after they finish blooming. Remember you can plant trees year round in Texas but the heat can add undue stress on a newly planted tree and it will require more water and attention the first year. 

  • Vegetable Garden - Start spring seeds inside/greenhouse to be planted in 6 to 8 weeks. Plant Now; cantaloupe, collards, corn, cucumber, honeydew, lima beans, luffa, Malabar spinach, okra, peppers, pumpkin, radish, snap beans, southern peas, squashes, sweet potato, Swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelons.

  • Watering  - 7-day cycle is best

  • Wildflowers – This is a great time to take the family for a country drive to see our Texas State Flower the Bluebonnet.

  • Wildlife in the Garden – We need pollinators for our plants and one way to encourage them to your yard is to plant the plants they love. Use a few of the following plants to make a butterfly garden in a container or bed:  mistflower, marigolds, salvia greggi, lantana, butterfly bush, coreopsis & purple coneflower.
April is a wonderful month in the garden!

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