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Polk County Lawn & Garden Checklist for April

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Lawn and Garden Checklist - April

For more info, help, and advice on these or other lawn and garden topics, contact your Polk County Extension Director, Scott Welborn

√  Is the Soil Too Wet?

Although it’s difficult once spring fever sets in, during extended periods of rain, try to 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. Its better to be patient than to ruin your soil structure.

√ Vegetable Garden

Hopefully you planted your Spring garden back in March. If you didn’t, you can still get away with planting leaf lettuce, beets, radishes and carrots in April. April is the month when you should really be working on preparing your soil (if it’s not too wet) for the summer garden. Begin tilling the soil and adding any amendments that may be needed, such as compost or lime. If you till your soil several times prior to planting you will have less weeds and a finer seed bed. If you have raised beds that you never walk in, tilling isn’t necessary unless you want to mix in compost or fertilizer. You should also be planning what you are going to plant and either starting seeds yourself under florescent lights or purchasing starter 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 garden environment gradually).

√ 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 pine bark. The key to healthy, long lasting plants is having well-drained soil. You’ll notice, too, that perennial flower offerings will change throughout the season at garden centers as they tend to display what is flowering at the time.

√ Summer Bulbs
These can be planted in late April. Summer bulbs include Dahlias, Gladiolus, Tuberoses, Fancy-Leafed Caladiums, Elephant Ears, Amaryllis and Cannas. Start digging and storing early flowering bulbs such as Ranunculus and Anemones as their foliage begins to yellow. 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 store necessary nutrients in the bulb for next year.
√ Lawn Care

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. Although it’s too late to do that now, if you haven’t, you may consider using an iron fertilizer to help green up the lawn (instead of using nitrogen.) This will cut down on fungal diseases.

√ Flower Bed Preparation

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 will be necessary at planting time. When planting, incorporate a pre-emergent herbicide like “snapshot” or “treflan” to prevent weeds. An organic approach would be to use corn gluten meal.

√ Azaleas and Camellias

As new growth emerges, Leaf Galls 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 these areas, 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.

√ Starting Seeds

Late March to early April is the time to start your tomato and pepper seeds indoors under grow lights. You will need an average of 5 weeks to grow your seedlings so they can survive in the garden. Most packets of seeds say you should give double that time, but in general, 5 weeks is enough to get the plants started so that when you plant them they are still vigorously growing and have not become root bound. Be sure to include a week of hardening off time in your calculations.

√ Cabbage Worms

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 lopper. 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 couple. 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.

NOTE: The use of brand names in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.