Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - April Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna's article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.)

You'll know when she's made her entrance. You can tell from the sunny but still cool mornings, pastel flowers in her hair, sweet-scented perfume carried on warm gentle breezes, and feathered friends are singing her praises. Sounds like a Disney animated movie doesn't it? But April has arrived, and it's one of our most perfect months weather-wise and gardening-wise. There's no excuse for not getting outside and performing those necessary spring chores.

Hopefully you pruned those azaleas after their spring performance (around the end of March). Mine bloomed early and didn't seem to last as long as usual, but maybe it's just that time seems to fly by these days. When they have dropped the last blossom it's time to give them a haircut, a good meal in appreciation of their gorgeous display and to encourage a summer renewal growth period. Feed again in 30 days, and again in another 30 days. Try not to feed past the 1st of June. Did I mention an acidifier would also be a good idea at this time? It wouldn't hurt to spread a bit more mulch to help them cope with the sizzling summer heat that's sure to come. Since you have that bag of acidifier handy, share it with the magnolias, hollies, gardenias and camellias. Better yet, if you're lucky enough to have a pine tree, their fallen needles serve as an acidifier and a mulch - a 'twofer' so to speak.

Since Easter is around the corner, it's time to put in those caladium bulbs, they'll nestle into the warm soil and reward you with their attractive foliage. Did you know that if you remove some of the bulb's smaller 'eyes' the other leaves will be much larger? Think about how you remove the eyes from a potato - same way - but cut no more than 1/4 inch deep. If someone gave you an Easter Lily and its flowers have faded, plant it in the garden. Some unsold and faded specimens may still be in the nursery, and get a load of that reduced price! Buy several and start your own Easter lily colony in a semi-shady area of your yard.

Don't you just love those shade-loving coleus? They tend to just grow tall and slender when you would like them to be short and luxuriant. Pinch out the tips and they will produce more branches and achieve a fuller facade. Same goes for the sun-loving copper plants. If a leafy rotund appearance is what you're looking for, most plants respond well to pinching.

Nurseries are carrying many new varieties of ornamental grasses. If you are looking to put a bit of motion and lots of texture into your garden - grasses are your answer. Broad leaf, narrow leaf, thread-like leaf - grasses come in many different varieties, and their blooms and leaf colors are not to be ignored. A few selections you might consider are pink muhly, purple fountain, little bluestem, inland sea oats, Mexican feather, and there are many more. Be adventurous, try something new for a change.

Usually when we talk about fertilizing blooming plants, a high middle number (phosphorus) is recommended, but that's not true for your hibiscus. They have a greedy need for potassium - the third or last number in the formula given on fertilizer containers. Potassium assists in almost every segment of plant growth, metabolism and general good health. I've said many times that I don't believe in filling the garage with too many fertilizer formulations, but in this case a specified hibiscus food is a good idea.

No - I didn't forget my fellow back yard veggie gardeners. You may be tempted by those marked down tomato plants in the nursery, but be forewarned that when night time temps become warm a tomato stops producing, and in my opinion it's just a bit too late to plant. Instead, you may want to visit one of our local week-end farmers' markets. But - transplants of peppers and eggplants can go in now, and seeds of cucumbers, beans (pole & bush), corn, sweet potatoes, summer squash and okra would be happy to find a home at your address. You might have noticed that as usual April was accompanied by showers. She's helping her close friend May get ready to present us with a spectacular floral display. I can almost smell those magnolia blossoms..................

Barbados Cherry close up