April Gardening Checklist

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

Spring gardening and lawn maintenance in Central Texas jumps into high gear for April. Temperatures can be cool one day and hot the next, so take advantage of coolish days to get your garden planted. Give the lawn special attention and get your landscape prepared for a central Texas hot summer. There are a few particular garden tasks to do to make your garden better able to withstand summer’s heat and possible drought. 

What to Plant in April in Texas?

Independent nurseries and garden centers are full of new plants for central Texas gardeners. There are so many things that can be planted in April.

Plant warm season annuals – angelonia, celosia, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, gomphrena, petunia, portulaca, purslane, verbena and zinnia. Wait until May to plant vinca in central Texas, when soils are warmer to avoid the fungal disease that can affect them. For shade to light shade plant begonia, caladium, coleus, impatiens and pentas.

In flower beds, sow seeds of cockscomb, cosmos, gomphrena, sunflower, tithonia and zinnias. Prepare hanging pots and containers for summer color with bougainvillea, tropical hibiscus, mandevilla and sweet potato vine.

Culinary herbs to plant for Texas warm weather are basil, garlic chives, lemon balm, lemon verbena, Mexican mint marigold, mint, oregano and rosemary. Plant turf (sod, seed or sprigs) in soil that is amended with compost, then raked and graded for drainage.

Plant roses, herbaceous perennials, groundcovers, ornamental grasses and shrubs. Keep in mind, that new plant material takes time to establish. As temperatures rise, keep new plantings mulched and closely monitor soil moisture through the summer and fall.

What Vegetables can be planted in April in central Texas?

For the best results in home gardening, plant vegetables at optimal times. For example, tomatoes and beans can still be planted early in April, but the best planting time is March in central Texas. When growing vegetables, it is almost always better to be early in the period of time to plant the vegetable rather than later. Adjust planting times for your USDA zone or check with your county Extension for dates specific to your area. 

The planting times for vegetables by seed or *transplant in April for zone 9a in central Texas are:

Week 1 –  beans both bush and pole: snaps and lima; corn, cucumber, *eggplant, melon – cantaloupe, honeydew; *peppers, pumpkin, squash – summer/winter, summer greens – Malabar and amaranth; Swiss chard, watermelon

Week 2 – Beans bush type snaps and lima; corn, cucumber, *eggplant, melon – cantaloupe, honeydew; okra, peas- southern, *peppers, sweet potato slips, pumpkin, squash – summer and winter; *tomatoes, Swiss chard, summer greens – Malabar and amaranth; watermelon

Week 3 – corn, cucumber, *eggplant, melon – cantaloupe and honeydew, okra, peas – southern, *pepper, pumpkin, squash – summer and winter; summer greens – Malabar and amaranth; Swiss chard, watermelon

Week 4 – beans bush – snap and lima, corn, cucumbers, *eggplant, peas – southern, *pepper, pumpkin, squash summer and winter; *tomatoes, summer greens – Malabar and amaranth; watermelon

Adjust planting times for your USDA zone or check with your county Extension office for dates specific to your area.

Pruning and fertilizing

Deadhead spent flowers of annuals like violas. Shape foliage of large annuals if needed. If seeds are allowed to develop, the plant energy goes into seed production rather than growing flowers. Fertilize with a balanced product to help spring annuals last longer. For early spring flowering perennials like salvia, prune away faded blooms. This increases the first flush of blooms. If you did not yet fertilize perennials and roses, apply compost or another organic fertilizer.

If needed, prune some spring flowering shrubs, vines or trees after flowering. This includes the ones that bloom on last year’s growth – Carolina jasmine, Chinese fringetree, crabapple, crossvine, honeysuckle, quince, redbud, spirea. Prune carefully to keep the natural shape of the plant. For example, bridal wreath spirea grows in the shape of a water fountain spray. Also, if a shrub or other plant is growing too large for a space, consider transplanting it later in the year.

Spring bulb foliage should be left in place until it yellows, then pruned off. This allows the bulb to be replenished for next year’s flowering for bulbs that rebloom.

April Lawn Care

What month to fertilize lawns? April is the time to fertilize lawns in central Texas. Why? With higher temperatures, turfgrass is actively growing and can now take up the nutrients. Plan to fertilize in the fall, also. Test your soil to learn the level of nutrients, then you can precisely apply the fertilizer the turf needs. For spring apply a product that is a combination of quick and time-release nutrients. The product label has this information, as well as the product analysis.

Nitrogen (N) is the first number listed in the ratio and is the element plants need in the largest amount. Most fertilizers also include phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), listed on the label in that order. In Texas, most soils have high levels of phosphorous – the middle number – and need very little or none of that nutrient.

Fertilize perennials with compost or a slow-release fertilizer. Annuals require a more immediate source, so a water-soluble fertilizer provides the benefit for both growth and flowers.

How do you get rid of weeds in the spring?

The weeds in flower beds and lawns in spring are ones that germinated in the fall and winter. They are maturing and setting seed in spring. The best thing for lawns, is to mow to get rid of weeds. It is too late to apply a pre-emergent for cool season weeds. Mowing will produce good results and prevent some weeds from setting seed.

In flower beds, pull weeds or hoe and apply a 2 to 3 inch covering of mulch to prevent germination of warm season weeds. Apply mulch around trees that grow in the lawn to prevent mower and trimmer damage to the trunk. Mulch vegetable gardens to prevent weeds, preserve moisture and reduce disease.

Indoor plants may be repotted for moving to patios and porches for the warm season. Refresh the growing media of plants that stay inside all year.

Spring pest management

The best way to control pests is to inspect plants frequently. If discovered early, pests are easier to manage. Watch for aphids, leafhoppers and crape myrtle bark scale. Grasshoppers have emerged and are small in spring. Use a natural product like Nolo Bait. Read and carefully follow instructions for use.

Vegetable pests to watch for are hornworm on tomatoes that can be picked off. An option is to spray plants with Bt – Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural caterpillar control that is safe for crops. Inspect the underside of leaves for eggs and pests like stink bug that gather on stems. Squash vine borers can devastate a crop. Cover plants with netting or wrap stems at the soil to interrupt the life cycle of this moth.

Powdery mildew may be controlled with a natural fungicide. Brown patch in lawns is more common in fall, but might show up in spring. It may require a fungicide to manage and appropriate irrigation. Water lawns very early in the morning rather than evenings to avoid fungal disease.  

Manage fire ants with the ‘Texas Two-Step” method. For a schedule and current control products, go to this link:  Fire Ants

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