April Lawn and Garden Tips
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Hopefully you planted your Spring garden back in March. If you haven’t you can still get away with planting leaf lettuce, beets, radishes, potatoes and carrots in April.
April is the month when you should really be working on preparing your soil (if it’s not wet) for the summer garden. Now is the time to begin tilling the soil and adding any amendments that may be needed such as compost, lime or nutrients such as Phosphorus. If you till your soil several times prior to planting you will have less weeds and a finer seed bed. Also know that if you have raised beds that you never walk in, tilling isn’t necessary unless you want to mix in a cover crop, compost or fertilizer.
You should also be planning what you are going to plant and either starting them yourself under florescent lights or purchasing plants and hardening them off prior to planting them in your garden. One should never simply purchase plants and set them in the garden without a week of hardening them off. (getting them used to your home environment gradually)
Don’t be tempted to plant the summer garden to early! We may have some warm days in early April but the soil is still very cool. This cool soil will leave you with plants that just sit there and do nothing while risking a deadly frost. It’s better to wait until the soil is fully warm for those summer time plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc., typically by May 1 st.
Herbaceous Perennial Plants
These should be set out in April or May so they will become established before hot weather sets in. Prepare beds using compost or small pine bark mixed with the existing soil. The key to healthy long lasting plants is having a well-drained soil. Also know that perennial flower offerings will change throughout the season at garden centers as they tend to display what is in flower at the time so check back regularly.
These can be planted in late April. They include Dahlias, Gladiolus, Tuberoses, Fancy-Leafed Caladiums, Elephant Ears, Amaryllis and Cannas. After the petals fade and fall off, remove flower heads with scissors or hand pruners, and allow the foliage to die a natural death. This allows the plant to storage necessary nutrients in the bulb for next year.
Now is the time to aerate warm season lawns (Bermuda, Zoysia) to warm the soil temperatures and allow for better water infiltration and gas exchange. You can also apply fertilizers at this time. Fescue lawns should have been fertilized in February. If you haven’t done it by now you are late. You can still fertilize but be prepared to apply a fungicide as late fertilizations increase the risk of brown patch. You may consider using an iron fertilizer to help green up the lawn instead of using high levels of nitrogen. This will cut down on fungal diseases.
Flower Bed Preparation
Prepare new flower beds now for this spring. Summer annuals and bulbs perform better and for longer periods if planted in well-prepared beds. Although it is too early to plant, it isn’t too early to till, incorporate organic matter, lime, and fertilizer. If the area is worked now, a shallow “fluff-up” and hand raking is all that is necessary at planting time. When planting, incorporate a pre-emergent herbicide like “snapshot” or “treflan” to prevent weeds if you desire. An organic approach would be to use corn gluten meal.
Azaleas and Camellias
As new growth emerges, Leaf Gall on azaleas and camellias are best controlled by handpicking the fleshy leaves and destroying them. Lacebugs are the most common insect pest on Azaleas. Watch for whitish, tippled leaves with tiny flecks on the undersides of the leaves. Since lacebugs feed on the undersides of the leaves, non-systemic material such as horticultural oil and insecticidal soap must be applied there.
Thorough coverage is essential and repeat applications will probably be necessary.
Alternatively, Imidacloprid can be utilized as a systemic chemical control but only apply this after the flowers have fallen off to prevent harm to bees.
Late March to Early April is the time to start your tomato, pepper seeds indoors under lights. You will need an average of 5 weeks to grow your seedlings so they can survive in the garden. Be sure to include a week of hardening off time in your calculations.
If you planted your spring garden in March and have included any of the Cole crops such as cabbage or broccoli; you will soon see cabbage worms. There are two types of these. The cabbage worm and the cabbage looper. Moths lay eggs on your plants and then the larva (worms) proceed to devour the leaves, destroying your harvest. If you have these, don’t fret. There is an effective biological control known as Bacillus Thuringiensis. These are sold under the name Dipel and Thuricide to name a few. Once applied, the worms consume the bacteria and become sick, just as we would if we got a bacterial infection. This can eliminate the pest without harm to any humans.
Is the Soil Too Wet?
Stay out of the garden when the soil is wet! Our clay soils are already compacted. Working in or on wet soil worsens the compaction markedly by decreasing the pore spaces available to hold oxygen. Neither gardeners nor their plants can survive without oxygen. In addition, working around wet plants is a good way to spread diseases. It will typically take a full week for a clay soil to be ready to work after a rain. It’s better to be patient than to ruin your soil structure.