Saturday, April 1, 2017

April in Your South Texas Garden

On the news last night, KRGV meterologist Tim Smith, shared that temperatures for January were 5 degrees over normal, February were 10 degrees over normal and March were 5 degrees over normal.   The number of aphids already attacking some of their fave plants attest to our mild (i.e. non-existant) winter.   Prepare yourself - and your plants - for a hotter-than-normal summer.   
  • Get on a good watering schedule.   This time a year, I usuall water my vegetable beds once a week but will be checking the soid on day 5 or 6 to make sure I don't need to turn the water on sooner. 
  • Weed, weed, weed.   Weeds compete with the plants you want for both moisture and nutrients.   Don't let them steal those resources.  
  • MULCH!   It doesn't matter what your mulch of choice is.   I use wood chips, shredded leaves, and hay throughout my garden spaces.   My goal is to have no exposed soil.
  • Group plants with the same water and sun requirements together.   That's just plain common sense but often we just look at color and texture when putting together a planting.  
April is a wonderful time of year in south Texas.   The March winds tend to die down and (usually) we have fairly moderate temperatures.   If you are going to change or add a planting area, it's time to get busy.   You will want to plant before Memorial Day so that the new plants can settle in before triple digit summer temps.   The exception to the rule are palm trees.   They are a monocot (like grasses) and are best planted once the soil has warmed up.   

This month you will want to: 
  • Continue to collect and shred leaves for ground cover and to compost.  I use my electric shredder weekly this time of year.  It is a string shredder and works well for the cost.   But, the next time I will buy one with some metal blades.  
  • Apply a layer of mulch to all planting beds. 
  • Check your plants for pests.   My go-to treatment is a sharp stream of water.   You may need to do this every day or two until they give up.   There are some pests that you can just pick off and squish - like tomato horn worm.     We had our first tomato horn worm last week on our one eggplant.   It is amazing how much they eat (define that as "how quickly they will eat your plant")    If you enjoy butterflies in your garden, these are two pest treatments that are targeted to the actual pest.   On that note: if you see a caterpillar or worm, try to identify it before you decide that it is a pest.  One good resource is   
  • Speaking of butterflies, if you want to attract them to your garden, plant some nectar and host plants.  Host plants are the plants that the butterfly will lay her eggs on.   The little caterpillars will feed on the plant, growing a thousand times bigger until it's time to form a crysallis.  The plants that I always like to have are dill, fennel, and milkweed.   Last summer, I abandoned my garden and ended up with lots of action on the old kale and artichoke.  
  • Amaryllis are blooming now.   If you have some plantings that are becoming crowed, you may want to dig up the bulbs, divide them, and replant.   Store them in a cool dry place and replant next February.   
  • If you have a bluebonnet patch, let the seeds develop and the plant dry (die) before you cut them down.   Leave them to sprout and bloom again next year.   You can shred the plants with a string trimmer and they will disappear quickly.     
  • PLANT: 
    • Trees:   Don't plant trees until next October or November unless you have to.   Studies have shown that trees planted in the fall and winter outgrow those planted the summer before.   
    • Palm Trees:  Plant any and all now!   Some palms are understory trees which means they want a shady spot.   Choose the right tree for your space.  
    • Vegetables:  okra, summer squash, southern peas (like black-eyed peas), and sweet potato and peppers from transplants.  If I didn't have tomatoes planted, I would definitely plant one in a 4" or 1 gallon pot.   And I will confess that I planted pole green beans this morning.   I don't know how they will do, but I had a little space and I didn't want it to go to waste   
    • Herbs:  Basil, catnip, dill, fennel, lavendar, mint (grow in a pot to contain the roots), oregano, parsley, rosemary
    • Flowers from seed:  alyssum, aster, cosmos, marigold, sunflower, zinnia
    • Flowers from transplants: dianthus, ice plant, geraniums, kalanchoes, marigold, periwinkle, ruellia, salvia, zinnia, 
    • Flowers from cuttings:  geranium, ice plant, kalanchoe ruellia
  • Vegetable Planting Date Sources - Texas Extension Service and the Old Farmers Almanac.
  • Fertilize
    • Acid fertilizer for your acid loving plants like gardenias
    • Lime trees that haven't bloomed yet.   
    • Avocado trees
    • Any vegetable / herb that is a heavy feeder.
Don't forget to download your April calendar!   It's a great place to keep track of what's going on in your garden and tasks you want to do.   I print mine up on a piece of cardstock. 

Gardening is cheaper than therapy . . . and you get tomatoes! 

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