April in the Garden
I am ready for spring! So far this year we have either had cold weather or rainy weather. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of it. I hate being cold, and I’m starting to rust. I want temperatures in the 70s and rain that only falls between midnight and 4 am three days a week!
I’m not going to pin my hopes on that kind of weather. April can be tricky, so I encourage you to go in to spring with patience. Our last frost is typically between April 6th and 16th, but last year we had a freeze mid-month. It’s better to hold off a little while on planting tender plants just to be safe.
What are things you can do this month? There’s a big list!
» Number one, of course, is a good checkup. Take a long walk around your yard, and give your plants an up-close-and-personal look. (Gazing across your yard from the porch or deck doesn’t count. You need to really see what’s going on.) 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? Do you have new neighbors that you’d like to not see quite so much of? Make a list, and make a plan.
» Notice above that I said look for insect damage. I didn’t say look for insects. Some of you freak out if you see any bugs on your plants, but some bugs are either benign or helpful. Don’t think that you have to start drenching your plants in insecticide at the first sign of movement. If you see damage, however, it’s best to start treating before you have an infestation. Call if you have questions.
» I also mentioned fungus. I’m afraid we’re in for a disease filled season with all the rain. If you have a susceptible plant, consider beginning a systemic fungicide regimen sooner rather than later.
» How about planting? Trees and shrubs can be safely planted as soon as the soil dries up. Please don’t try to force it and plant in soggy soil. The success rate is minimal.
» Get your planting beds ready even if you’re waiting to plant. Add compost or aged manure to beds to up the nutrient level. Get weeds out, but don’t apply a pre-emergent if you’re going to plant seeds. If you’re going to plant seedlings instead, go ahead and do a pre-emergent to make your life easier.
» You can also get containers ready if they are currently unoccupied. 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. 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! 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. After 3-5 years, you really need to take everything out and start all over.
» Flower beds can be planted this month, but 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 tend to not do as well. Patience, grasshopper!
» How about vegetables? You’re 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 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 haven’t already pruned them, but DO NOT commit crepe murder! Don’t cut bulbs back until after the foliage has yellowed so they can store up nutrients for next year.
» 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 date for fertilizing warm season grasses.
» I want to put in a quick plug for the birds and other pollinators. Please plant at least part of your yard with plants that help them, and lay off the toxic chemicals as much as possible. It’s 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’s new!
Meadow View Greenhouses & Garden Center
9885 Highway 11E
Lenoir City, TN 37772