APRIL TO DO LIST
Please note, most of the information shared here was obtained from Research-based sources (see contributors acknowledgements below), and from individuals who are considered very knowledgeable on a particular subject. While some little tidbits here may be of interest, they should be taken “with-a-grain-of-salt”.
A house though otherwise beautiful, yet if it hath no Garden belonging to it,
Is more like a Prison than a House. – William Coles (1656)
Yearling PURPLE MARTINS should still be arriving to colonize new breeding sites and will continue arriving for an additional 4-6 weeks (This means martins can be attracted to new housing through mid-May). - PMA
Our latest spring freezes have occurred during this week.
Stake Gladiolus as their flower spikes are forming, or grow them closer together for mutual support.
Ball moss does not threaten oaks trees, but if the appearance bothers you, control it by treating now with Kocide fungicide. Follow label instructions.
Mow live oak leaves and let them decompose on the lawn or use them for mulch.
Junior petunia is a hardy reseeding plant for color in cool and hot weather. It can be planted now.
Plant beans, sweet corn, summer squash, radishes, carrots and beets in the vegetable garden. Recommended tomato varieties are Merced, Celebrity, Carnival, Surefire, Jackpot, Whirlaway, Sun Master or Heatwave.
If your pecan trees showed small leaves and few nuts last year, the trees probably need zinc. Spray it on the emerging leaves or apply a chelated zinc source to the soil. (Spray pecans with fungicide to prevent pecan scab, vein spot and downy spot - TAE).
Resist the urge to fertilize your lawn until you have mowed "lawn" grass (not annual grasses and weeds) twice. - CF
Some favorite shrubs: Copper plants (colorful foliage) and lantana (colorful flowers) can be planted.
Select and plant water-saving ornamental grasses to add height, texture and color to landscape.
Treat CATERPILLARS munching the garden with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), biological control. - EO
Spray pear trees with a bactericidal spray if fire blight has been a problem in the past. – TAE
Direct seed warm-season flowers such as marigold, zinnia, larkspur and moss rose in well-prepared beds.
Watch for APHIDS on new growth. Tender growth on roses is especially susceptible. Use general insecticides. For organic control, try insecticidal soap or neem oil. - LR
Watch Redtip photinias for Entomosporium fungal leaf spot (maroon spots, yellowish growth). Control is very difficult. Banner or Daconil are best.
Keep a lookout for cannas, for LEAFROLLERS that tie leaves together, result in rows of holes across surfaces of leaves. Use Orthene with 1 or 2 drops of liquid detergent to hold spray on leaves. - NS
Keep pulling weeds- don't let them go to seed. - AJW
To keep your everblooming roses flowering longer than any other in town, try this terrific tonic: Dissolve 3 tbsp. of brewer's yeast in 2 gal. water, and soak the roots of each bush after their first blooming.
Fast Flower Feeder Tonic: Take 2tbsp. of hydrogen peroxide; 2tbsp.of liquid dish soap; 4tsp. of instant tea granules; 1tbsp. of clear corn syrup; 1tbsp. of unflavored gelatin; 1 can of beer; 2tbsp. of ammonia; 2tbsp. of whiskey; 2gal. of warm water. Mix them all together, and feed your perennials and bulbs every two weeks in the morning. Then step back and watch your blooms soar!
Fragrant Pest Fighter Tonic: Take 1/2cup of fresh tansy; 1/2cup of fresh lavender; 1/2cup of fresh sage; boiling water; 1tsp. of Murphy’s Oil Soap. Place the herbs in a 1quart container. Fill with boiling water, cover and let set until cool. Add 1/8cup of this mix to 2cups of water and the Murphy’s Oil Soap. Pour in a handheld sprayer, mist the plants, and the pests will scram.
If you snooze, you lose . . . in summer that is . . . as hungry APHIDS, WHITEFLIES, and SPIDER MITES make short work out of your prized perennials. But it’s quick and easy to bug-proof your beauties with my “Summer Soap-&-Oil Spray”. Using 1cup of vegetable oil and 1tbsp. of liquid dish soap (the “Ultra” was in picture!). Mix them together, then add 2teaspoons to 1cup of water in a handheld sprayer. Mix well and spray away. - JB
Attracting Hummers & Butterflies: The following are attractive plants to hummingbirds and butterflies, experts say, and are well-suited to S. Texas landscapes because they are drought-resistant. A) For Hummingbirds: Autumn sage, Carolina jessamine, ceniza, coral honeysuckle, lantana, red yucca and Turk’s cap. B) For Butterflies: Agarita, butterfly bush, Indian blanket, mealy cup sage, purple coneflower, summer phlox and Texas bluebonnet.
All-Natural Easter Eggs - by Susan Wittig Albert (Country Living Gardener, April 2001)
The decorated egg, a symbol of rebirth in many pagan cultures, made its first appearance in Europe when the Crusaders brought the idea from the East. Natural dyes are fun and easy for kids to work with, and they'll learn about plants in the process. In general, the more coloring agent you use and the longer the egg remains in the dye, the darker the color will be. Arrange these pastel eggs in a basket with snips of rosemary, thyme, sage and fuzzy lambs' ear (Stachys byzantina) and use as a table decoration.
1) Red - In a large pot of water, simmer eggs for up to an hour with the skins of red onions.
2) Pink - Soak hard-boiled eggs overnight in cranberry or beet juice.
3) Yellow - Add 2 teaspoons of turmeric and 1 teaspoon vinegar to 3 cups water; soak hard-boiled eggs overnight.
4) Brown - Add 2 tablespoons of instant coffee and 1 teaspoon of vinegar to two cups of hot water; soak hard-boiled eggs overnight.
5) Tan - In a large pot of water, simmer eggs for up to an hour with the skins of yellow onions.
6) Lavender - Pour hot water over violet blossoms; soak hard-boiled eggs overnight.
7) Blue - Simmer eggs for up to an hour with a few leaves of red cabbage, or soak hard-boiled eggs in grape juice.
April showers (any rain for that matter) bring nitrogen (more lightning, more nitrogen) and vitamin B-12 to the earth with the rain, that's why plants respond better to rain than aquifer irrigation. - (me)
In Our Rose Garden: With the first blooms all around and rose shows just around the corner, there are duties we need to take care of to insure that our gardens are in tip-top shape. Three keys to good spring roses are watering, feeding and spraying.
A. Watering- Maintain a good moisture level in the top 6 - 8 inches of your rose bed where those important feeder roots are located. If the rains have been nice, keep tabs on the dampness of the soil in the rose beds using the best "moisture indicator" of all - your finger!
B. Feeding- Are you interested in maintaining good bush growth and having cut roses for the house and color in the yard? Then continue to feed with a dry or granular feed once a month. Use one cup per plant around the dripline of the bush. Soluble feeders need to apply your favorite feed every weeks giving each bush at least one gallon poured around the dripline of the bush. With our spring rose show right around the corner, you might try giving your roses a mix of the following to add to the size, substance and color of the bloom. Two weeks prior to the show, mix in a 32 gal. garbage can: (1)Two cups of Superbloom- 12-55-6; (2)One cup of fish emulsion; (3)One cup Sprint 330 (formerly called Sequestrene). Stir well for mixing and give each bush at least one gallon of the mix. Give miniatures one quart each.
C. Spraying- Remember, prevention is the name of the game. Every 5 - 7 days should keep your rose beds disease-free.
1. Blackspot & Mildew- Funginex (consider rotating sprays every month or so with Immunex, or other good fungicide), one Tbsp. per gal. of spray. Make sure to spray the top and bottom of the foliage.
2. Thrips- Mist only the buds and opening flowers to keep your blooms clean from this culprit. Use either Orthene liquid (2 Tbsp.), Orthene powder (2 tsp.) per gal. of mixture, or Cygon 2E.
3. Spider mites- (These mites usually aren't visible to the naked eye, but their damage is. As they feed on plant tissues, the pests inject toxins into the plants, causing white or yellow dots on leaves. Might notice webbing on the plants.) Either water wash the bottom side of the foliage on a 3-day interval cycle for nine days, or spray the bottom side of the foliage with Green Light Mite spray (2 tsp. per gal.).
D. The Fine Art of Pruning- Knowing why you grow roses dictates your plan for managing the flower production. Finger pruning is the process of rubbing off unwanted new shoots so you get the shape of bush you want and the bush can be forced to produce a few "large" blooms or many small blooms. If you decide to do nothing, there will be an overabundance of new stems pointed in every direction with a large number of small flowers. This is perfect for the person who wants to limit their time doing rose chores if they just want lots of color in the landscape. A small amount of finger pruning and clipping, reducing the number of new shoots per stem, can direct the growth outward and upward developing a shapelier bush with lots of color and some nice, long stems for cutting. The serious exhibitor will only allow 2 or 3 new stems to develop per cane to get the large, showy flowers.
New shoots that do not seem vigorous, small in diameter, short and have a brown tip rather than a bud should be removed cleanly back to the main cane. These are blind shoots and will never make a flower. New shoots that are a foot long or less that form a bud should be cut in half. They will take away from the size of other flowers so why not recycle them to get a jump on the second cycle.
* Remember To Water Your Bushes Thoroughly Before Feeding Or Spraying!
Organic Rose Program - HG (see Feb2do list for complete program)
Watering: If possible, save and use rainwater. If not, add 1 tbsp. of natural apple cider vinegar per gal. of water. If all else fails, just use tap water but, in any case don't over water. Avoid salty well water.
For best results foliar feed with Garrett Juice every 2 weeks, but at least once a month. When soil is healthy, nothing but Garrett Juice is needed in the spray.
Pest Control Program: Add the following to Garrett Juice and spray as needed.
Garlic tea - 1/4 cup/gal. or label directions for minor insect or disease infestations.
Citrus oil, orange oil, or d-limonene - 1 oz./gal. of water as a spray, 2 oz./gal. of water as a drench.
Potassium bicarbonate - 1 rounded tbsp./gal. for minor diseases.
Liquid biostimulants - Use per label - Agrispon, AgriGro, Medina, Bio-Innoculant or similar product.
Neem - Use per label directions for more serious insect and disease infestations.
Fish emulsion - 2 oz./gal. for additional nutrients (may not be needed when using compost tea).
In Our Herb Garden: It's not too late to plant transplants of perennial herbs. * From now and throughout the summer, plant basil, which likes the warm weather. * Cool weather annuals planted late this month will go to seed near the end of June (examples are dill, cilantro, parsley). * Weed and water as necessary. * Enjoy your garden, everything is taking off! - Herbs: A Resource Guide for San Antonio
Room for Improvement- Expert tips on how to avoid costly landscape mistakes!
by: Marsha Murray Harlow and Dr. Douglas F. Welsh (Neil Sperry's GARDENS Mag. Oct.98)
Top 10 Mistakes Texas Gardeners Make:
1) Overwatering- Over watering or improper watering encourages poor root systems and wastes water, should runoff occur. It also stresses plants, making them more susceptible to disease. Roots in waterlogged soil can't breathe; consequently, plants wilt and turn yellow as their roots rot. Eventually, they die.
2) Overfertilizing- Too much of a good thing causes problems for plants as well as for gardeners. Proper fertilizing nurtures healthy plants that are able to resist pests and environmental stresses. Too much fertilizer may trigger excessive new growth, making a plant more susceptible to disease. That abundant new growth also requires more water and more mowing or pruning.
3) Misusing pesticides- A wise gardener knows an insect-free landscape is impossible. The goal is to control the "bad guys" of the insect world and encourage the "good guys". The key is to identify the pest and use an appropriate pesticide. Study your alternatives, and only use them as a last resort, as many are nonselective, so the beneficial insects may be affected, too. Please keep this in mind, when you kill a beneficial insect you take over its job!
4) Improperly identifying a plant problem- Before you choose your weapon, you must know who the enemy is. Put your sleuthing skills to work to determine whether the problem is caused by an insect, disease or environmental factor.
5) Using plants that are unproductive and/or poorly adapted to your area- There are reasons that dogwoods and azaleas flourish in East Texas, but not in the Hill Country. Climate, rainfall, soil types and temperatures divide Texas into gardening "zones", and a smart gardener learns to appreciate what grows well in his/hers own backyard.
6) Planting in the wrong place- When placing a plant in your landscape, consider its mature size and its need for sunlight or shade.
7) Failing to prepare soil before planting- No matter what type of soil you have, your success depends on whether you amend the soil. Healthy soil is alive with nutrients and microorganisms, and produces healthy plants with few problems.
8) Failing to use mulch- This layer of organic or inorganic material on top of the soil can work wonders. It helps soil retain moisture, moderates soil temperature, keeps weed populations down, and makes hand-weeding easier.
9) Planting at the wrong time- Timing is important when growing vegetables. Not only must you learn which are warm-weather crops and which are cool-weather ones (don't plant broccoli in late spring, for example), you also must consider location (South Texas gardeners plant tomatoes later than gardeners in North Texas).
10) Failing to think long-term- Train yourself to plant with a vision of how your landscape will look in five years.
* * * Poteet Strawberry Festival * * *
Continue weekly spraying of roses & other "formal" flower gardens. Set up a certain time to do it and stay with it. (After a time it becomes routine and not so much a chore.) Spray time does not need to be boring - it is the time for looking, planning, reflecting or just plain enjoying being out with the roses. - AJW
Aerate lawns at least once each year, use a core-extracting aerator. Top dress it with compost or a compost-sand mix to revitalize the grass.
It is time to put bougainvillea, plumeria, hibiscus and other tropical plants outside. (This would be a good time take "all" your potted plants outside and either repot with fresh soil or with a garden hose flush all those mineral salts from old fertilizers out of the potting soil and start a new feeding program with them, maybe even give their leaves a little bath. - me)
Keep Easter lilies moist and in a bright room for long, indoor life. After the flowers decline, plant them outside in a location with morning sun.
For color in the shade, use coleus, begonias, pentas and annual salvia.
Tomatoes can be planted in the garden now. Mulch them with leaves, cocoa shells, lawn clippings or other material to avoid blossom end rot.
Wisteria must be pruned after their flowering season, even in years when they fail to bloom. To prune them significantly at any other season would reduce or prevent their bloom the next spring. Keep the plant's natural shape and avoid excessive cutting where necessary to control size. Apply iron/sulfur material to wisteria's to combat iron deficiency caused by South Texas soils. (Carolina jessamine, spiraea, quince, Indian hawthorn and Lady Banks roses are some examples of shrubs that should also be pruned back after they have bloomed. - EO)
To increase the germination rate on Texas mountain laurel seeds, collect and plant the seeds after the pods reach full size but before they dry out (still green).
The oak blooms that are littering your yard, decomposes quickly in the compost pile. Mix them with live oak leaves. - CF
Vegetable gardens need fertilizer every 3 weeks. Use a product with a 19-5-9 ratio of nutrients.
Sow seeds for sunflowers and gomphrena (bachelor button).
Plant okra and pumpkin seeds and sweet potato transplants (slips). - EO
Lightly fertilize shrubs and evergreens around their bases to encourage spring green-up.
Keep mower blades sharp. A mulching blade will eliminate the need to rake or bag grass clippings.
Rotate houseplants so each side receives its share of light. This encourages even growth and a balanced shape.
As the sun's rays strengthen and daylight hours lengthen, plants such as African violets may need to be moved from southern facing windows to prevent leaf scorch. - TAE
It’s time to fertilize your lawn. Most soil tests in the area reveal high levels of phosphorus and potassium. If you have not tested your soil for several years and you have applied 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio fertilizers (example: 15-5-10 or 16-4-8) for several years, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as 21-0-0. (Do not feed Buffalograss – CF) - LR
The Red-Winged Blackbirds will be moving on to hoard other feeders further north, but they'll be ba-a-a-ck. - me
* * * Fiesta * * *
Keep an eye out for the Lyrids Meteor Shower. Check when it's due. - THMag
Plant Basil, Begonia, Caladium and Impatients in prepared beds. Warm-weather annuals such as zinnias, lantana and purslane can be planted now. The semperfloren begonias (wax begonias, available at most nurseries) can be grown in sun or shade. Plant them now in sunny locations so they can put on growth before the heat arrives.
Use spinach and cole crops. All except Brussels sprouts are declining quickly from heat and aphids.
To control SQUASH VINE BORERS on melons and squash, apply thiodan dust every week at the growing point.
Perennial Daffodil foliage should be allowed to die back totally. Do not remove it while it shows any sign of green.
Mulch newly planted tomatoes to conserve water and prevent blossom end rot.
Mow St. Augustine grass at 3", Bermuda at 1", zoysia at 2" and buffalo grass at 4". Mowing frequently reduces weeds. Water the lawn only when it needs it. Walk across the grass, if your footprint springs up, the grass has plenty of water. - CF
Control garden SLUGS, SNAILS and PILLBUGS with slug & snail baits. - EO
Plant annuals for instant color. Select short, compact plants. (Tropical annuals such as Mexican heather, bougainvilleas and allamandas can be planted for flowers all summer. – LR)
Turn your compost pile to speed decomposition.
It is time to plant okra, Southern peas and ornamental cotton.
Early May is the best time to plant caladiums in our region. Select caladium tubers while ample stock is available. – TAE
Plant heat-tolerant perennials like China Doll, Firebush, Gingers, Lantana and Mex. Bird-of-Paradise.
Prune spring-blooming plants as the last blooms fade. An exception is Texas mountain laurels, which don't respond well to pruning. Just remove dead wood on mountain laurels.
Harvest columbine seeds before pods open. Put the stalks in a brown paper bag so the seeds will collect in the sack when they open.
Cyclamen declines quickly in heat. The bulbs need to be stored until next fall. An easy storage method is to turn pots on their sides in a corner of the yard. As long as the bulbs stay dry, they will not rot.
APHIDS, feasting on fresh growth, can be controlled with insecticidal soap, malathion or other labeled insecticides. As hot days come, arrange to spray (liquid fertilizers & insecticides as needed) in the morning or evenings. When the temperature gets into the 90's, almost any spray will burn.
It is time to fertilize tomatoes when the first fruits set. Spread a half-cup of slow-release lawn fertilizer around the drip line. Check stems of tomato plants just below the soil line in search of cutworms. Remove the cutworms by hand.
When onion tops fall over, it's time to harvest. Put the bulbs on the surface of the garden for a day to harden off, then store them in mesh bags in a dry room.
Mow whenever grass has grown 1/2" to 5/8" and let clippings fall into turf.
San Antonio area loquat trees have a beautiful crop of tasty fruits. Use them fresh or for preserves.
Spray peach, plum, pear and apple trees every week with an insecticide and use a fungicide every two weeks if you want blemish-free fruit.
Arizona ash leaves may show brown spots and drop because of anthracnose. It is not a major problem. The trees will recover without spraying. - CF
Prune elaeagnus, pyracantha, ligustrum and photinia shrubs frequently if they are growing vigorously. - EO
Last week of oak pollinating your sinuses - SB
Turn the material in your compost pile to speed up decomposition. Water as needed.
If you have spring vegetable or flower seeds that were not planted, put them in a zip-top plastic bag and store in the refrigerator until needed. – TAE
Plant watermelon and cantaloupe.
Apply iron products to correct iron chlorosis. Keep iron off of walkways and masonry because of staining.
Plant English or Algerian ivy, Asian jasmine or mondograss in deep shade where lawn grass does poorly. - LR
A YEAR IN THE ROSE GARDEN: by A.J."Pop" Warner
Watch for spider mites. If you think you do not have them by the end of this month it is likely you either have sprayed, washed with water or just don't see well. If the roses are not doing as well as you think they should, take another look or maybe have a Consulting Rosarian come and look.
Watch for basal breaks. These are large vigorous shoots coming from the bud union or from within about 5 inches of it. They are easily broken off so arrange to tie them to a stake or another cane until they have hardened. They are valuable to the life and longevity of the bush, so take care of them. When they are about 2 feet high it is useful to pinch them off at the first blunt bud, thus encouraging strong branches and preventing candelabras.
Avoid cutting blooms with long stems from new bushes. Cut very short stems or snap blooms off at the peduncle and float in a bowl.
On established bushes, unless the bloom is needed for a show, take no more stem than necessary. Leave two good sets of leaves on the bush. If the bush is well grown this will provide ample stems for arranging (and if it is not well grown the blooms should not be cut with long stems anyhow).
A quick and simple way to cut spent blooms ("dead-head" as our British and Canadian friends say), is to snap off the faded bloom at the peduncle. The roses repeat faster and seem to grow better than if we go through and cut down farther on the stems.
Remove blind shoots and leaf rosettes. A leaf rosette is a cluster of leaves, usually far down the cane, which has no bloom bud. Blind shoots are stems which come out and taper down to nothing with no bloom bud. A cane which has nothing but blind shoots should be removed at the source.
Lightly stir the mulch. Many mulches pack down and need to be fluffed up for better insulation and better water penetration.
Add to your mulch. If it is allowing weeds to grow or seems to be thin, more mulch will help kill weeds and keep the ground cooler.
Many thanks to my contributors:
PMA - Purple Martin Association
CF - Calvin Finch, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
EO - Edna Ortiz, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
TAE - Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Bexar County (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
LR – Lynn Rawe, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Cooperative Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)
NS - Neil Sperry, Texas horticulturalist, Publisher "Neil Sperry's GARDENS" and contributor to S.A. Express-News
AJW - A.J. "Pop" Warner, (see above)
JB - Jerry Baker, America's Master Gardner, aka "The Yardener"
HG - John Howard Garrett, aka the "Dirt Doctor.
THMag - Texas Highways Mag.
SB - Steve Brown, meteorologist with KSAT