April 2007
Featured Articles



PLANT/TRANSPLANT

• Prepare beds for annuals and vegetables before buying transplants. After the danger of frost has passed, make a list of what you need, buy the plants, and set them out immediately. Avoid planting the same crop or closely related crops in the same spot as last year. For example, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes and turnips belong to the same family. Try planting radishes where you previously grew something unrelated, such as black-eyed peas.

• Transplant seedlings and young plants once the danger of frost is past. Use plant markers to mark each plant so you’ll remember what you put where. Protect tender plants from wind and pests. You may even want to wait two extra weeks for the garden soil to begin warming, especially for tomatoes, peppers, and okra.

• Divide chives, thyme, mint and tarragon when new growth emerges. Layer rosemary and thyme for propagating.

• After the last frost, seeds of amaranthus, celosia, cosmos, marigold, portulaca, zinnia, and other warm-season annuals can be sown directly in the beds where they are to grow. Keep seeded areas moist until seeds germinate. Thin out as soon as they are large enough to transplant. Surplus plants can be transplanted to other areas.

• Check annual beds for "volunteer" plants from last year’s plants. Plants that reseed readily include cleome, celosia, salvia, zinnia, and globe amaranth.

• Don’t forget to plant for butterflies and hummingbirds.

• For instant color, purchase Bonnie plants. It’s also time to buy your Bonnie vegetable and herb plants.

• When new leaves appear, divide perennials like asters, chrysanthemums, daylilies, sedums, daisies, and yarrow. Dig plenty of compost into the soil before replanting.

• Divide crowded liriope plants. Transplant or give away surplus plants.

• Plant ornamental grasses as far apart from center to center as their eventual height.

• Start hanging baskets and pots for your patio or porch.

• If you haven’t repotted overgrown houseplants, do so this month. The new pot should be just a couple of inches larger in diameter than the old pot. As you move the plant, be sure it is repotted to the same depth and that the soil surface is about 1" below the container rim.

• If your space is limited consider growing vegetables in containers. Containers also require less time, water and effort than a larger garden.

• After threat of freezing plant cannas, gladioli, dahlia and lily. Mix bulb fertilizer, processed manure and peat moss into the planting soil. Plant gladiolus corms every two weeks until July to create a continuous succession of flowers.

• After it warms up a bit, dig, divide and replant cannas and dahlias after the eyes have sprouted but before they grow one inch.

• Transplant red spider lilies and magic lilies or naked lilies (all are lycoris) immediately after bulbs go dormant (yellowing, dying leaves). Plant shallow.

• Bulbs forced indoors are ready for transplant outdoors after cutting off faded flowers.

• Plant climbing roses at least 2 feet away from wall when the soil is dry enough to be worked.

• Divide dormant miniature rosebushes that have produced a lot of woody, unproductive growth and replant the divisions like new bushes.

• April is a great time to select and plant fruit trees and berry plants. Fruits and berries do best when planted in full sun.

• Plant trees and shrubs now to give them plenty of time to get established before summer.

• Hardy water lilies and lotuses that overwintered in the deeper water will need to be returned to shallower water.

• Plant new hardy water lilies.

• Divide bog plants just before or when new growth is emerging.

• Any submerged plants that have become overgrown need to be thinned.


FERTILIZE

• Always water after applying fertilizer to help the movement of nutrients into the root zone.

• Spread the recommended amount of fertilizer uniformly over your vegetable and flower garden. Mix or till it, 4 to 6 inches into the soil, before seeding or transplanting. This method of application reduces the potential of salt injury to germinating seeds or young trans- plants. Always apply any recommended lime several weeks before planting to allow enough time to adjust soil acidity.

• Certain vegetable crops require additional nitrogen during the growing season. Some of these vegetables are tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, cabbage, squash, okra, beans, and peppers. Split fertilizer treatments into three equal applications: 1/3 in early April, 1/3 in June or July and 1/3 in September, to produce more uniform growth and minimize leaching.

• Feed asparagus with a nitrogen-containing fertilizer to encourage production of large ferny growth.

• Wait at least 2 or 3 weeks after lawn has completely greened before fertilizing according to soil test.

• A good schedule to follow for fertilizing Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass is the "Major Holidays Rule." Divide your total nitrogen requirement for the year by four. Put down this rate of nitrogen on or near each of the four holidays: Easter, Memorial ` Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day.

• The best time to apply fertilizer to shrubs is in the early spring, usually one month prior to the most rapid growth period. Spread fertilizers evenly around the plant 10 to 12 inches from the base.

• As soon as azaleas have finished flowering, apply an acid type fertilizer at the rate recommended. Don’t over fertilize, as azalea roots are near the surface and damage can occur. When calculating fertilizer needs, split the total amount into 3 equal amounts and apply each portion at two week intervals.

• Broadleaf and needle leaf evergreens benefit most from lightly spreading a high nitrogen fertilizer around their bases.

• Fertilize pecan trees now with a fertilizer containing zinc. Zinc makes their leaves stronger and helps in kernel development.

• Apply root stimulator monthly to newly planted trees and shrubs.

• Watch the leaves of your plants as they unfold. A plant with yellowing leaves and pronounced green veins is stressing for iron. Add an iron supplement containing iron chelates to correct the problem. Follow all feedings with a deep irrigation to dilute the fertilizer, preventing burn.

• Feed summer bulbs when new leaves emerge with a single application of a slow-release fertilizer. As plant grows, appearance will determine if any additional fertilizer is needed. Over-fertilization encourages leaf growth not flowering.

• Fertilize once-blooming roses in early spring before growth begins and repeat-blooming roses only if necessary.

• Roses have high fertilizer requirements. For most soils, use a complete fertilizer for the first application just as new growth starts, then use ammonium sulfate, or other high nitrogen source, every 4 to 6 weeks, usually just as the new growth cycle starts following a flowering cycle. Cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal and composted manures are organic sources of fertilizer that work well on roses.

• Roses also have a high need for calcium. Lime recommendations are designed to maintain soil pH within a range of 6.0 to 6.5. A rate of 50 lbs per 1000 square feet is equivalent to spreading 1/2 cup around a plant to a distance of 18 inches. For best results, mix lime into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.

• Hybrid Tea Roses should be fertilized prior to buds beginning to bloom. Using a systemic fertilizer will help prevent insect infestation later in the summer, as it feeds your rose.

• Aquatic plant fertilizer tablets should be used on bog plants when new growth appears.

• Feed hardy water lilies once a month with aquatic fertilizer tables pushed into the soil when water temperature is above 700F. Keep tablet about 2 inches from the rhizome or tuber.


PRUNE

• Prune spring-flowering shrubs soon after flowering. Keep the natural shape of the plant in mind as you prune, and avoid excessive cutting except where necessary to control size.

• Prune grapes and fruit trees now. Don’t wait.

• If you have nandinas in your landscape, you know they grow like bamboo, with long canes and leaves at the tops of the branches. Prune them by cutting one-third of the canes at one- third of the plant’s height. Prune another third at two-thirds of its height, and leave one-third alone. Mahonia and Aucuba can also be pruned this way.

• Prune wisteria after blooming.

• If you have junipers, conifers or cypress that needs shearing or pruning, now is the time to do it. Keep your pruning cuts within the green (foliage) parts of the plant. If you cut back into bare branches it is sometimes difficult or impossible for the plant to re-grow from the old growth.

• Wait until spring-flowering plants, such as azaleas, camellias, forsythias, quince and spireas, have finished blooming before pruning them. When you do prune them, you shouldn’t shear these plants. Selectively remove branches to maintain the beauty and shape of the plants.

• Removing spent flowers, trimming back excessive growth, and applying fertilizer to an established annual bed can do wonders towards rejuvenating and extending the life of the planting.

• Prune lavender and sage as new growth begins. DO NOT cut below the point of new buds.

• After flowers fade from spring-flowering bulbs, cut off flowers to prevent seeds from developing. DO NOT cut or remove leaves, allow them to die naturally. The leaves provide nutrients for next year’s flowering. If you want to move bulbs, mark where they’re growing and then transplant them after the foliage dies back.

• If your landscape includes mondo grass, also known as dwarf lily turf, don’t mow it. Sheared mondo grass foliage doesn’t grow back as well as liriope foliage.

• Deadhead houseplants that have bloomed.

• Pinch tips of vining plants (houseplants) to encourage production of new leaves.

• Climbing hybrid tea and other climbing roses may be pruned as soon as they complete flowering.

• Prune rose buds that point outward, suckers arising from below the graft union and dark- colored canes.

• Before St. Augustine grass comes out of dormancy, lower the mowing height to remove the tops of the dead grass blades.

• If marginal plants around your water garden were not cut back in the fall, now is a good time to remove them before new growth appears.


WATER

• As you do your spring planting be sure to plan how you will water this summer. Place those plants that require the most water closer to the house.

• With water rates the way they are, it will be worth your time to take a critical look at your irrigation system. Turn on the water and check for leaks or plugged nozzles and make needed repairs. Check all drip emitters for efficient flow. Clean and repair the plugged ones and their filters.

• Although we think of this as a rainy month, it can fool us. Keep transplants well watered during dry spells.

• Keep seeded areas moist until seeds emerge.

• Water and mow St. Augustine more often to make it fill in dead areas more quickly.

• Irrigate newly seeded, plugged or sodded lawns to encourage rapid establishment.

• Be sure to take a little time to check the plants under the eaves of the house and under tall evergreens to see that they are getting sufficient moisture. In some cases, plants in these locations are bone-dry and in desperate need of watering. Container plantings should also be given watering attention.


PEST CONTROL

• Before mixing pesticides in your pressure sprayer for the first time this season, fill the tank with plain water and test for leaks. Replace gaskets and O-rings as needed. Remove and clean the nozzle.

• Many pests are attracted to weak and sickly plants, so conditioning soil not only promotes growth, it can actually deter infestations of aphids, powdery mildew, and blackspot.

• Handpull winter annual weeds such as common chickweed, henbit and wild geranium to prevent them from reseeding. A shallow layer of mulch will suppress them.

• Watch for aphids, slugs, snails, spider mites, thrips and other harmful bugs this time of year. Use the appropriate insecticides for control. Read the label of any pesticide three times – where you buy the product, at home and before applying — to ensure proper use.

• Control Iris borers and squash borer with Orthene, Isotox or Cygon.

• It will soon be time for bagworms to attack junipers and other narrow-leafed evergreens. Control measures, such as Sevin dust or spray, should be applied while the insects and the bags are about one-half inch in length.

• Apply first treatment for shade tree and evergreen tree borers around April 1st using Hi-Yield 38 PLUS.

• Now is the time to control scale insects on branches of shrubs and trees. Check for overwintering infestations of scale insects on evergreen plants like camellias, cleyeras and hollies. If you find them, use dormant oil spray unless your plants have begun to bud or leaf out. Then use other insecticides for control.

• Bacterial leaf spot of peaches and plums can be controlled with baking soda and water or garlic/pepper tea.

• Fight gray mold by removing spent flowers, dying leaves, other dead tissue and treat with fungicides like Bravo or Funginex.

• Apply the first round of milky spore disease if you’ve never applied before to control Japanese beetles. Re-apply in summer and in fall.

• As frogs, toads, salamanders, and snakes emerge from hibernation, encourage them to stay around your garden and help control pests. Set shallow bowls or birdbath basins on the ground and fill them with water. Rinse and refill regularly.

• Start weeding early in the flower garden. Early competition with small plants can delay flowering. A mulch will discourage weed growth and make those that do come through easier to pull.

• Apply pre-emergent herbicide for late-germinating annual weeds, like spurge. Reapply for chickweed, foxtail, and crabgrass.

• Start weeding early in the vegetable and flower garden. Early competition with small plants can delay flowering. Mulch to discourage weed growth.

• Continue to spray rose varieties susceptible to black spot, using a spray containing triforine or, as it is more commonly known, Funginex. Use every 7 to 10 days.

• Spray rose foliage with Immunox Plus, Triple Action or the home remedy of Epsom salts and garlic tea.


ODD JOBS

• Record in your gardening journal where and when plants and bulbs were planted or transferred; when, where and type of fertilizer (including lawn); what, when and results of: insecticides, fungicides, weed control, etc.; bloom dates; condition of flowers, leaves and overall health of plant; even weather conditions; basically anything effecting your lawn and garden to be able to track efficiency.

• Plan a cutting garden to enjoy flowers indoors.

• Stake dahlia tubers soon after planting to prevent chance of skewering tuber later.

• Plan to support any top-heavy plants.

• Take photographs or videotape of the landscape every two or three years so that you have an accurate photographic record of the size, condition and appearance of trees and shrubs in case of severe storm damage.

• Make sure your garden beds are not too wet. If it’s been raining and the soil is saturated, you’ll have to postpone your gardening for a bit longer.

• Mow weekly and leave clippings on the lawn.

• Move houseplants outdoors. Keep an eye out for dropping temperatures.

• Continue to add new vegetable matter and manure to existing and additional compost piles.

• Turn compost pile.

• The compost, which has been breaking down unobtrusively in a corner of the yard, may be ready to yield its wealth of organic goodness. Nutrient rich compost improves the texture, water rentention, and drainage of your soil.

• Mulch beds with compost or other organic material to help conserve moisture and curb weed growth.

• If you have a cold frame, any time during the spring is good for cleaning and repairing for next fall.

• To keep cauliflower pure white, loosely tie the long outside leaf onto the flat, open head when it is 1-2 inches across. Hold leaves together with a rubber band until the head is ready for harvesting.

• Harvest asparagus until the spears become thinner than a pencil.

• Consider a container water garden if you don’t want to dig up part of your yard.

• When danger of frost has passed, uncover strawberry beds and keep them well watered.

• Spring is also a good time to de-thatch and over-seed the lawn. Thatch buildup can smother your lawn and provide an environment for diseases. Remove thatch with a brisk raking, or with a de-thatching machine.

• Aerating the lawn will allow water to penetrate deeper into the lawn soil and reduce the need to water during the dryer months ahead. Use a garden fork and punch holes over the surface of your lawn or use a rental machine that removes plugs of soil; rake up the plugs and put them on the compost pile or leave

them in place to decompose.

• As mowing becomes necessary, be certain that the blade is sharp to prevent tearing the grass tips.

• Rotate your houseplants so that each side receives its share of light, for even growth and a balanced shape.

• As the sun’s rays strengthen, some plants, such as African Violets, may need to be moved away from a south-facing window to avoid leaf scorch.

• Spring-cleaning your houseplants will keep them beautiful and help to avoid diseases. Remove any spent flowers, dead leaves or branches or any yellowing leaves. Rinse the dust from the leaves with the kitchen sprayer. Clean leaves allow the plant to breathe.

• Many flower or vegetable seeds left over after planting the garden can be saved for the next season by closing the packets with tape or paper clips, and storing in a sealed glass jar in your refrigerator or freezer.

• Driving around the neighborhood, or visiting a local nursery may give you some great ideas of what you’d like to have blooming in your yard at this time next year.

• Take a stroll in the woods or the park at least once each season to enjoy a little bit of Mother Nature’s gardening handiwork!

• Don’t be tempted to remove daffodil foliage immediately after flowering to make room for spring annuals. The leaves need time to nourish the bulb and next year’s flowers. Leave them 12 weeks after flowering or until foliage flops over and yellows. If you must, plant your annuals between the bulb foliage.

• Remove old nests from bird houses, clean the houses, and mount on poles or trees 6 to 20 feet from the ground.