April Gardening Tips for the Texas Coastal Bend | By Kitty Angell

#TBT -- This was first published in late March of 2013. But as always, Kitty's articles have information that rings true year after year. Enjoy!
"April is the month we gardeners get our tools out, roll up our sleeves, and get busy! Whether it is planning or planting, we have plenty on our plate. Thoughtful pre-planning and preparation will lead to a much more successful landscape.

Pergolas are a great spring project that can bring many hours of enjoyment. What, you may ask, is a pergola? Sometimes called an “arbor”, a pergola is a garden feature forming a shaded walkway or sitting area of pillars that support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice.

Normally free-standing, they can also be used as extensions of buildings. They are adaptable in any size and shape and can add a “wow” factor to everything from a modest home to a mansion. Plans are easily obtainable on the Internet, or you can work with a local landscape company to design one to your individual taste.
This is also a good time to construct garden pathways, rock gardens, and other patio extensions. Flagstone, pre-formed stones, and bricks can be successfully installed to add interest, as well as utility, to your yard.

Pruning chores this month include wisteria and climbing roses after the flowers fade. Roses such as Lady Banks, American Beauty, and Swamp Rose bloom only in spring. Remove any dead and old canes. Lightly prune remaining canes after blooming and refrain from additional pruning until after next year’s bloom. 

It’s time to get your lawn fertilized. Easter was early this year, so wait until about mid-April to use a slow-release fertilizer that contains no more than 15% nitrogen. High nitrogen fertilizers cause thatch and are more likely to pollute the environment. 

Continue to spray the foliage of plants, including vegetables, weekly or bi-weekly early in the morning with dilute applications of seaweed extract, fish emulsion or compost tea. Mulch all flower beds with compost first, and then a native mulch to deter weeds and keep the soil moist and cool. Start weeding early in the flower garden. Competition with small plants can delay flowering.

Bring your Plumerias and Orchids outside, but make sure they are in a wind-protected area. How about under your new pergola? Plumerias love sun, but if your plant has wintered inside, don’t just plunk it down in the middle of the blazing sun! Permit them to gradually get used to a brighter light so they won’t get sunburned. Plumerias will eventually love the same spot as your cactus and succulents. Six hours of full sun a day will produce more blooms. 

Orchids that do well outdoors include Cattleya Alliance Hybrids (half-sun), Dendrobiums (half-sun), and Paphiodedilums (shaded gardens.) Orchids are not suited for extended periods of full, hot sunlight. For gardens, you may want to plant one orchid and monitor the petals of the blooms. If they wilt, find a cooler place with less light. Growing in pots is the best way to use Orchids outdoors. 

Vegetables to plant: transplants of peppers and tomatoes until mid-month, and transplants of eggplant (try the little SuperStar™ eggplant “Hansel.”) Seeds to plant include butterbeans bush green beans, corn, cucumber, cantaloupe, okra, southern peas, watermelon, and until mid-April summer and winter squash. Watch potato and squash plants for clusters of eggs on the underside of the leaves. Remove the eggs and save yourself damage from beetles and squash bugs.

Most summer-blooming flowers seeds can be planted now. Wait until the end of April to plant zinnia seeds. Plants that are given good air circulation and full sun have fewer fungal leaf problems. Dig and divide crowded fall-blooming bulbs such as lycoris.

With the exception of vinca (periwinkle), all summer-blooming flower transplants can be set out in April. Wait until the end of the month or May to set out vinca. This flower is susceptible to “damping-off”, caused by a soil-borne fungus that occurs when the soil is cool. Select short compact plants. Pinch off any flowers or flower buds to give the plants an opportunity to become established."

By Kitty Angell
Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardener

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