Saturday, April 4, 2009

April's Garden Chores in Deep South Texas

FLOWERS (ANNUALS): Marigold, zinnias, cosmos & snapdragon from seed. Many more from bedding plants but beware when you buy from the Big Box Stores. They were selling impatience and pansies this week - after May it's so hot here they just melt.

VEGETABLES: Most of your planting should have been done by March 15th. But if you still have a little room, you may want to plant okra, southern or black-eyed peas. Zucchini and summer squash should be close to harvest. We are currently harvesting asparagus, tomatoes, and eggplant. The tomatoes were planted last fall and the eggplants are a full year old now.

HERBS: Dill can be planted from seed and the warm weather herbs can be planted from seedlings. Most of the garden centers currently have a nice selection of herbs in 3" pots but I'm still looking for Sweet Basil. Last summer we lived on pesto and I want to make sure we have enough. One of my friends who grows LOTS of herbs told me that Sweet Basil is only good a year and then you need to replace it. I added another Mint (Mojito season will be upon us soon) If you haven't grown herbs, you need to try a few. They are so much fun - huge benefit in the kitchen (or bar) - many are catepillar host plants -

CALADIUMS - Caladiums are just beginning to peak up out of the ground. April is your last month to plant them - and if you want your fancy caladiums to last further into the summer, look for a spot that gets afternoon shade. I like to put some in pots that can help disguise a struggling spot.

PRUNE - Most of your annual pruning should be done but I just today finished pruning the Firebush (Hamelia patens). Since Firebush blooms year around on new growth, it can be pruned at any time. But I like to give mine a big spring haircut and then take a little nip here and there as needed. If your roses are spring bloomers, you can cut them back now. Pinch the growing tips out of poinsettias, coleus, copper plants, and mums.

WATER - Top of my list is to add some drip irrigation to a number of beds. The price of the battery powered timers have dropped drastically and I've been told the batteries will last an entire year. Now all I need is a water source to automate much of the irrigation chores.

COMPOST - If your compost bin is like mine, it is now chocked full of brown (carbon) material - cut or shred your trimmings to add to the pile. I still notice bags and bags of leaves and twigs around over Harlingen. Maybe it's time for some leaf rustling!

MULCH - I think this is the most important thing you can do for plant health. It cools the roots and keeps weeds from sprouting and competing for water and nutrients. Around my house, we have some new planting beds so we've already spread over 100 bags this spring. To save money, some of the beds in the back of the house are going to get a base mulching with hay. Give your plants a nice 3 inches of mulch. Once you get all your beds done, topping them off each spring is a piece of cake! Remember to keep it a couple of inches away from your tree trunks.

PEST CONTROL - Be on the look out for aphids and scale. Honeydew is a sign of an aphid infestation. Horticultural soap can handle most small to moderate infestations.


Jan said...

I know April is prime gardening month here in the Deep South, before the summer heat sets in. It really irritates me how many garden centers are still selling pansies and petunias. It will be so frustrating to new gardeners when they don't last. You are right about them not lasting, in fact, I am getting ready to pull out most of my violas in the next week.

Always Growing

Mary Beth said...

JAN - Yep - that's one of my pet peeves! and why I'll always frequent a local garden center before hitting the big box stores.

Rock rose said...

Wow! I had no idea you were so far ahead of the rest of the USA. When I saw you write that the zucchini should be ready to harvest I was thinking" I don't even have mine in the ground" and it's a good job because we are getting a frost tonight. That on top of terrible wind which has taken it's toll on everything.
You are right about the big box store. They sell tomatoes here in August/ September and now I know why. They are thinking we are the same as where you live.

Rock rose said...

Forgot to say that I have a couple of battery timers. I have them on my citrus and a small garden where we cannot put in a system. They work very well now that they have ironed out the kinks. There was a problem with leaking into the battery but they replaced them for me. Best price was at Home Depot.

Layanee said...

Love your asparagus picture. I am months away from a full veggie garden so it is nice to visit yours.

Meems said...

Mary Beth,
Great tips... most of them very much the same as here. I don't know why but I'm a little intimidated by asparagus. Is there anything special to know? Your photo looks great. Does it really come up out of the groung one stalk at a time? And the eggplant -- does it keep producing all year or did it re-produce? I just planted eggplant for the first time. I've heard it grows pretty easily. This veggie garden thing is still so new to me... thanks for the tips.
Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

Meems said...

I was going to say also that I was in a big box store today and petunias were flying out of there in folks' baskets... I wanted to stand up and say "don't buy them, they won't make it past next week!" But I didn't. LOL
Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

Mary Beth said...

MEEMS - The asparagus is tricky - especially in areas like ours where it doesn't always get cold enough for the plant to go dormant. You'll want to plant it in early spring. They say not to harvest for three years, but I harvested for bit after one year. This veggie likes a soil rich in compost. Eggplant seem to just keep on producing. I can't seem to figure out when to harvest them - they[re either too green or too ripe. . . any suggestions?

Mary Beth said...

Rose - I would have said that Austin and harlingen were only a couple of weeks different in their growing season. But lots of your winter fizzled out before it got this far south this year. It's so humid here, that if we get very far into Spring, our squash get mildew.

Thanks for the info on your battery timers - I'll check out Home Depot.

MEEMS - I, too, have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when someone is checking out with something that I don't think will survive more than a week or two.

LAYANEE - So glad you dropped by for a visit!