April Gardening By the Month

“When April showers may come your way, they bring the flowers that bloom in May. So when it’s raining have no regrets, because it’s raining violets.”- Judy Garland


(By now we have a smorgasbord of tomato plants to choose from, so come on in and let us help you find the perfect one, or two, or three for your taste.)


april pics101st Week:

Our latest spring freezes have usually occurred during this week.

Stake Gladiolus as their flower spikes are forming, or grow them closer together for mutual support.

Mow live oak leaves and let them decompose on the lawn or use them for mulch.

Laura Bush and VIP petunias  are hardy reseeding plants for color in cool and hot weather.  They can be planted now.

Plant beans, sweet corn, summer squash, radishes, carrots and beets in the vegetable garden.

If your pecan trees showed small leaves and few nuts last year, the trees probably need zinc.  Spray it on the emerging leaves or apply a chelated zinc source to the soil.  Spray pecans with fungicide to prevent pecan scab, vein spot and downy spot.-TAE

Resist the urge to fertilize your lawn until you have mowed “lawn” grass (not annual grasses and weeds) twice.

Select and plant water-saving ornamental grasses to add height, texture and color to landscape.

Treat CATERPILLARS munching the garden with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), biological control.-EO

Spray pear trees with a bactericidal spray if fire blight has been a problem in the past.-TAE

Direct seed warm-season flowers such as marigold, zinnia, larkspur and moss rose in well-prepared beds.

Plant transplants of purslane, coleus, annual salvia, impatiens, torenia, and caladiums for color.

Watch for APHIDS on new growth.  Tender growth on roses is especially susceptible.  Use general insecticides.  For organic control, try insecticidal soap or neem oil.-LR

Watch Redtip photinias for Entomosporium fungal leaf spot (maroon spots, yellowish growth).  Control is very difficult.  Liquid systemic fungicide is best.

Keep a lookout, on cannas, for LEAFROLLERS that tie leaves together, result in rows of holes across surfaces of leaves.  Use Bonide Systemic Insecticide, or BT,  with 1 or 2 drops of liquid detergent to hold spray on leaves.-NS

Keep pulling weeds, or mowing them with a bag attachment. Don’t let them go to seed.-AJW

Attracting Hummers & Butterflies: The following are attractive plants to hummingbirds and butterflies, experts say, and are well-suited to S. Texas landscapes because they are drought-resistant.  A) For Hummingbirds: Autumn sage, Carolina jessamine, ceniza, coral honeysuckle, lantana, red yucca and Turk’s cap.  B) For Butterflies: Agarita, butterfly bush, Indian blanket, mealy cup sage, purple coneflower, summer phlox, Texas bluebonnet, and lantana.


bougainvilla mix sized2nd WEEK:

Continue weekly spraying of roses & other “formal” flower gardens.  Set up a certain time to do it and stay with it.  (After a time it becomes routine and not so much a chore.)  Spray time does not need to be boring – it is the time for looking, planning, reflecting or just plain enjoying being out with the roses.-AJW

It is time to put bougainvillea, plumeria, hibiscus and other tropical plants outside.  This would be a good time take “all” your potted plants outside and either repot with fresh soil or with a garden hose flush all those mineral salts from old fertilizers out of the potting soil and start a new feeding program with them, maybe even give their leaves a little bath.-BT

Keep Easter lilies moist and in a bright room for long, indoor life.  After the flowers decline, plant them outside in a location with morning sun.

For annual color in the shade, use coleus, begonias, pentas and annual salvia.

Sow seeds for sunflowers and gomphrena (bachelor button).

Tomatoes can still be planted in the garden now. Add a cup of rock phosphate to each hole and plant directly into it. Fertilize with Epsom salts to help avoid blossom end rot.

Vegetable gardens need fertilizer every 3 weeks.  Use a product with a3-1-2 (19-5-9 is an example) ratio of nutrients.

Plant okra and pumpkin seeds and sweet potato transplants (slips).-EO

Wisteria must be pruned after their flowering season, even in years when they fail to bloom.  To prune them significantly at any other season would reduce or prevent their bloom the next spring.  Keep the plant’s natural shape and avoid excessive cutting where necessary to control size.  Apply iron/sulfur material to wisteria’s to combat iron deficiency caused by South Texas soils.  Carolina Jessamine, Spirea, Quince, Indian Hawthorn and Lady Banksia roses are some examples of shrubs that should also be pruned back after they have bloomed.-EO

To increase the germination rate on Texas mountain laurel seeds, collect and plant the seeds after the pods reach full size but before they dry out (when they are still half green).

The oak blooms that are littering your yard decompose quickly in the compost pile.  Mix them with live oak leaves.-CF

Lightly fertilize shrubs and evergreens around their bases to encourage spring green-up.

When shearing a hedge, keep the top narrower than the bottom to allow light to reach all areas of the shrub.

Keep mower blades sharp.  A mulching blade will eliminate the need to rake or bag grass clippings.

Rotate houseplants so each side receives its share of light.  This encourages even growth and a balanced shape.

As the sun’s rays strengthen and daylight hours lengthen, plants such as African violets may need to be moved from southern facing windows to prevent leaf scorch.-TAE

If you have mowed twice, then it is time to fertilize your lawn if you haven’t already.  Most soil tests in the area reveal high levels of phosphorus and potassium.  If you have not tested your soil for several years and you have applied 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio fertilizers (example: 15-5-10 or 16-4-8) for several years, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as 21-0-0.  (Do not feed Buffalograss.-CF)-LR


zinnia1sized3rd WEEK:

Plant Basil, Begonia, Caladium and Impatiens in prepared beds.  Warm-weather annuals such as zinnias, lantana and purslane can be planted now.  The semperfloren begonias (wax begonias, available at most nurseries) can be grown in sun or shade.  Plant them now in sunny locations so they can put on growth before the heat arrives.

Select caladium tubers while ample stock is available.  Early May is the best time to plant caladiums in our region.-TAE

Plant annuals for instant color.  Select short, compact plants.-LR

Tropical annuals such as Mexican heather, bougainvilleas and allamandas can be planted for flowers all summer.

Watch for early signs of blackspot and powdery mildew on roses. blackspot shows up when temps are mild and foliage is wet for periods of time. Powdery mildew likes mild temps and high humidity. Avoid crowding plants and wetting foliage for your best line of defense.

Perennial Daffodil foliage should be allowed to die back totally.  Do not remove it while it shows any sign of green.

To control SQUASH VINE BORERS on melons and squash, apply BT every week at the growing point.

Mow St. Augustine grass at 3″, Bermuda at 1″, zoysia at 2″ and buffalo grass at 4″.  Mowing frequently reduces weeds.  Water the lawn only when it needs it.  Walk across the grass, if your footprint springs up, the grass has plenty of water.-CF

Control garden SLUGS, SNAILS and PILLBUGS with slug & snail baits.-EO

Turn and water your compost pile to speed decomposition.


aphids4th WEEK:

Plant heat-tolerant perennials like Firebush, Gingers, Lantana and Mexican Bird-of-Paradise.

Prune spring-blooming plants as the last blooms fade.  An exception is Texas mountain laurels, which don’t respond well to pruning.  Just remove dead wood on mountain laurels.

Harvest columbine seeds before pods open.  Put the stalks in a brown paper bag so the seeds will collect in the sack when they open.

Cyclamen declines quickly in heat.  The bulbs need to be stored until next fall.  An easy storage method is to turn pots on their sides in a corner of the yard.  As long as the bulbs stay dry, they will not rot.

Aphids, feasting on fresh growth, can be controlled with insecticidal soap, malathion or other labeled insecticides.

As hot days come, arrange to spray (liquid fertilizers & insecticides as needed) in the morning or evenings.  When the temperature gets into the 90’s, almost any spray will burn.

It is time to fertilize tomatoes when the first fruits set.  Spread a half-cup of slow-release lawn fertilizer around the drip line.  Check stems of tomato plants just below the soil line in search of cutworms.  Remove the cutworms by hand.

When onion tops fall over, it’s time to harvest.  Put the bulbs on the surface of the garden for a day to harden off, then store them in mesh bags in a dry room.

Mow whenever grass has grown 1/2″ to 5/8″ and let clippings fall into turf.

San Antonio area loquat trees have a beautiful crop of tasty fruits.  Use them fresh or for preserves.

Spray peach, plum, pear and apple trees every week with an insecticide and use a fungicide every two weeks if you want blemish-free fruit.

Arizona ash leaves may show brown spots and drop because of anthracnose.  It is not a major problem.  The trees will recover without spraying.-CF

Prune elaeagnus, pyracantha, ligustrum and photinia shrubs frequently if they are growing vigorously.-EO

Last week of oak pollinating your sinuses-SB

Turn the material in your compost pile to speed up decomposition.  Water as needed.

If you have spring vegetable or flower seeds that were not planted, put them in a zip-top plastic bag and store in the refrigerator until needed.-TAE

Plant watermelon and cantaloupe.

Apply iron products to correct iron chlorosis.  Keep iron off of walkways and masonry because of staining.

Plant English or Algerian ivy, Asian jasmine or mondograss in deep shade where lawn grass does poorly.

Please note, most of the information shared here was obtained from Research-based sources (see contributors acknowledgements below), and from individuals who are considered very knowledgeable on a particular subject.
Many thanks to my contributors:
PMA – Purple Martin Association
CF – Calvin Finch, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
EO – Edna Ortiz, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
TAE – Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Bexar County (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
LR – Lynn Rawe, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Cooperative Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
NS – Neil Sperry, Texas horticulturalist, Publisher “Neil Sperry’s GARDENS” and contributor to S.A. Express-News
AJW – A.J. “Pop” Warner, (see above)
JB – Jerry Baker, America’s Master Gardner, aka “The Yardener”
HG – John Howard Garrett, aka the “Dirt Doctor.
THMag – Texas Highways Mag.
SB – Steve Brown, meteorologist with KSAT