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If T.S. Eliot thought April was the "cruellest month," he certainly didn't spend much time in the Anytown area. Aside from the world-famous cherry blossoms, local gardeners contribute their own dogwoods, azaleas, tulips, pansies, and other blooming plants to make April the most colorful month of the year. But even if you can't find the time to cultivate your own garden, you can still enjoy the Spring colors with a trip to the Anytown Arboretum or a drive along the River Parkway.
While it's always tempting this time of year to get out in the garden, local enthusiasts should be aware that the last frost dates in our area range from April 15th to May 7th. Pay special attention to the weather reports for the next couple of weeks and be prepared to cover tender annuals if cold temperatures are predicted. If cold nights are forecast (and we can probably expect at least a few before the weather warms up for good), protect the tender new growth overnight with sheets, blankets or burlap.
As soil temperatures rise and lawns break from dormancy, now is the time to attack weeds, insects, and disease.
To prevent turf diseases such as leaf spot, powdery mildew, and snow molds, apply DACONIL or BAYLETON to your lawn in April.
For post emergent weed control, use GREENVIEW GREENPOWER 2-WAY WEED AND FEED, or GREEN GOLD FEED AND WEED W/TRIMEC
For effective insect and grub control in the lawn, use GREENVIEW GREENPOWER PLUS INSECT CONTROL, MERIT, OFTANOL, GRANULAR DIAZINON, or MILKY SPORE.
Around the Garden
As daffodil and tulip bulbs finish flowering, cut off the spent blooms and their stalks, but leave the foliage until it turns yellow and dies back. Don't try to tie up leaves, either; just let the plant grow naturally so it can store energy for next year. If you want to divide or move clumps of daffodils or other bulbs, wait until the foliage yellows, then dig them up and replant them. (You can also wait until fall to dig them up, but they're easier to find when the foliage is still attached. You also have a clearer memory now of what your spring garden looks like and any holes you'd like to fill in for next year.)
Watch carefully for emerging perennials (plants that come back from year to year) - some break dormancy later than others, and even the same variety may emerge at different times in different parts of your garden. Avoid digging in areas where you may disturb plants you just can't see yet. Among those to break dormancy relatively late are asclepias (butterfly weed), platycodon (balloon flower), hardy hibiscus.
Place cages or grow-through rings over peonies as they emerge - it's much easier than trying to corral them when they're big enough to flop all over the place. You can do the same thing with any other plants that flopped over last year.
Now is a good time to divide existing perennials and begin planting new ones. Summer blooming bulbs such as Dahlias, cannas or gladiolas may also be planted this month. Feed with OSMOCOTE or PLANT-TONE.
Now is also a great time to plant your perennial garden. However, avoid unnecessary tramping through beds or digging in the soil when it's wet - it compacts the soil.
Vegetables and Herbs
Plant cool weather vegetables such as mustard greens, spinach, lettuce, and peas this month. You can plant seeds directly into your garden or get a head start by planting our seedlings. Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflower need a head start in order to mature in your garden before hot weather sets in. Plant seedlings of these plants this month.
Herbs that can be planted this month include parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, mint, oregano, tarragon and dill. Wait until May to plant basil; it won't do well until the soil has warmed up and night temperatures are consistently warmer.
Towards the end of the month, you can plant beans, summer squash and corn in the warmer parts of our area. Wait until the soil has warmed in May to plant tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Studies have shown that there's little or no benefit to planting tomatoes before night temperatures are above 55 degrees. Tomatoes planted later actually grew faster and produced earlier than the same varieties planted out earlier.
Trees and Shrubs
Late March and early April are good times to prune deciduous (non-evergreen) trees and shrubs that bloom on new wood. Cut Buddleias (Butterfly Bushes) back to 12-18 inches to keep their size in check and to encourage heavier flower production. Caryopteris shrubs also benefit from a hard pruning now. Prune the tips of Crape Myrtles for a neater appearance now and heavier bloom this summer. Feed with 5-10-5 fertilizer.
In early April, cut back ornamental grasses (including liriope) to within a few inches of the ground if you haven't yet done so. New growth is about to emerge.
April is the best month to plant and transplant trees, shrubs, grasses and ground covers.
Scout for Eastern Tent Caterpillar egg masses (dark, shiny, one-inch long masses encircling tree branches) and Gypsy Moth egg masses (fuzzy, orangish tan, one inch long masses) if you had problems with these pests last year. Removing these egg masses by hand before they hatch will reduce the populations in your yard this year.
If your azalea had petal blight last year, begin fungicide treatments when the azalea buds begin to show color.
Insect, disease, or other cultural problems? Bring in a branch or some leaves and one of our certified horticultural professionals will be glad to diagnose your problem and give you advice on how to treat it.
After all the enjoyment they give you don't your azaleas, rhododendrons, pieris, and camellia deserve a treat? After they're done blooming, feed these acid-loving plants with HOLLYTONE. They will thank you with new growth over the Summer and another brilliant show of color next Spring.
If you are planting or transplanting trees and shrubs, be sure to create a good growing medium for your plants in their new location. Remember the 1/3 rule: 1/3 existing soil, 1/3 peat moss (or peat substitute), and 1/3 perlite or sand will create the kind of rich and well drained soil in which most plants will thrive. (An alternative is to create a 50%-50% mixture of existing soil and CLAY AWAY). In order to reduce transplant shock and promote root development, water in ORTHO UPSTART, ALASKA START UP or DRAGON PLANT STARTER at planting time and make sure that all new transplants get adequate water, especially if we don't receive an inch of rain per week.
Have you begun your rose care schedule? If not, It's time to start feeding and begin preventive treatments for fungus and disease. Drop by American Plant Food's nursery for a look at our selection of roses and to get more information on rose care.
As the days get longer, houseplants start to grow more vigorously. Feeding your houseplants with MIRACLE-GRO or SCHULTZ brand fertilizers will encourage new growth and vitality.
Remember that houseplants must be treated individually and each has different watering needs. Make sure to feel the soil to determine a plant's needs before watering.