April in the Garden

Spring is in the air! Well, it is today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. That is the main thing I want you to remember as we go into April: Mother Nature is very unpredictable! Our last frost can be anywhere from late March to May. The average is April 15th, but please wait on tender plants or be prepared to protect them. We still have Blackberry winter and Dogwood winter to go!

What are things that you can do this month? There is a big list!

• Number one, of course, is the monthly checkup. Take a long walk around your yard and give your plants an up-close-and-personal look. What has freeze damage? What has insect damage? What has started to sprout fungus? What needs to be pruned, divided, moved, or composted? What has changed that will mean a difference in your gardening? Look up, down, and all around, then make your plans. Also, think about what is realistic for you to accomplish by yourself and what you will need help with. Contact lawn services and landscapers soon because they are already getting very busy.

• Let me talk just a little about landscapers. Please do not hire someone unless you have done some checking. Your landscape has a huge impact on the look of your home, so you want to make sure the person you are hiring is reputable. Look at photos and check reviews, but please be careful of Nextdoor and other places where it is easy for a nasty person to ruin the reputation of a good company.

• When you are looking for insects, please remember that not every bug is a bad bug. There are many that can help you out! If you do see damage, however, it is best to start treating before you have an infestation. Call if you have questions, or bag the little critters and bring them in.

• Last year was a fungal nightmare because of all the rain. If you had problems with some of your plants last year, keep an eye on those and start treating if you see fresh signs. Those that are susceptible to black spot, rust, powdery mildew, etc. may benefit from a systemic product.

• You can get your planting beds ready even if you are waiting to plant. Add compost or aged manure to beds to up the nutrient level. Get weeds out, but do not apply a pre-emergent if you are going to plant seeds. I have become a fan of worm castings, so you can also add a thin layer of that to the top of your beds.

• I suggest planting flower beds in stages because some plants are more tolerant of cool temperatures than others. Petunias, geraniums, lantana, and some other annuals will handle a light frost. Begonias and impatiens turn to mush.

• Did you plant containers last year? If so, get those ready to go. If your planters are small, dump the soil out and rinse the pot. If the plants had any fungal problems, mix a tablespoon of bleach into a gallon of water and pour it into the pot, then rinse it out. Refill the container with fresh, good quality soil. I’m a fan of Happy Frog, but any good quality soil will do.

If your containers are large or have permanent occupants (shrubs, perennials, etc.), top dress them with a couple of inches of compost or fresh soil. A 1/4″ to 1/2″ of worm castings or some mycorrhizae will help these, too. After 3-5 years, you really need to take everything out and start all over. Remember to NEVER use ground soil in containers. Potting soil is for pots, garden soil is for gardens. You cannot substitute one for the other!

• How about vegetables? You are safe planting any of the cool season vegetables, but wait until mid-month for tomatoes, peppers, and corn. Super sweet varieties of corn should wait even longer, until the soil is around 70 degrees. This is usually early May.

• Let’s talk a little about pruning. Prune spring blooming shrubs within a couple of weeks after they finish blooming. Older forsythia, quince, weigela, and lilacs can be severely pruned to rejuvenate them if needed. You can prune crepe myrtles as they start to leaf out if you have not already pruned them, but DO NOT commit crepe murder! Don’t cut bulbs back until after the foliage has yellowed so that they can store up nutrients for next year. Please call us with questions. Don’t go out and start whacking!

• This is also the time to fertilize if you haven’t done so already. Acid lovers need an acid type fertilize such as HollyTone. General purpose fertilizers will work on everything else. April 15th is your end date for fertilizing warm season grasses.

• I want to put a quick plug in for the birds and other pollinators before I run out of space. Please plant at least part of your yard with plants that help them survive and lay off the toxic chemicals as much as possible. It is also baby bird season, so keep those feeders clean and full!

We have new loads of plants and garden décor coming in almost every day. Stop by and see what is new!

Meadow View Greenhouses & Garden Center
9885 Highway 11E
Lenoir City, TN 37772