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.

April is the month when Mother Nature shows us her soft and gentle side, and departs from the harsh persona she exhibits during January and February. She is a real lady this month and next, and all the blossoms she presents to us prove that she does have an amiable and tender disposition. With her cooperation, your garden is finally a mass of blooms, the result of your past labors. All of those sweet peas, petunias and snapdragons are begging to be cut and brought indoors where they can be enjoyed - which incidentally has the side effect of prolonging their bloom time.

But we all want color to continue into the hot summer months, so it’s time to plant seeds of heat-tolerant, sun-loving annuals such as marigold, zinnia, periwinkle, coral vine, and transplants of hibiscus, copper plants and plumbago, to mention just a few. One of my favorite sun-lovers is melampodium, you may find it labeled as ’black-foot daisy.’ It adores our hot summers, and produces gazillions of white or yellow one-inch diameter daisy-like blossoms. It grows twelve to eighteen inches tall, and makes a great back planting for shorter specimens. It is an annual, but self-seeds prolifically.

For those shady areas you might consider impatiens (always my go-to plant for a spot of almost instant color), pentas, coleus and good ol’ dependable begonias.

Usually we plant caladiums at Easter which is mid-month this year, so you can get them in the ground now. They don’t appreciate cold soil, and the bulbs tend to rot under those conditions. Remember that the greens and whites do well in shade, while the reds can take some sun. If you want the leaves to be bigger than normal, use your potato peeler or paring knife to take out some of the smaller ’eyes’ - the larger eyes will produce larger foliage. Take the Easter lily out of its pot and put it in the ground - you’ll enjoy their glossy white trumpets for years - although not necessarily at Easter.

Those new landscape trees you put in the ground this fall or winter are showing new growth - and a light feeding of a 15-5-10 would be appreciated. Be sure and mulch around these new specimens so they will not be too stressed by the inescapable summer heat, and they’ll grow significantly faster than those surrounded by lawn grasses or bare ground. Two or three inches deep is fine, just remember that the mulch should not touch the trunk.

You wanted to do it last month, and it was hard to restrain yourself I know, but as long as you have that bag of 15-5-10 handy give in and feed the St. Augustine which is now actively growing. You’ll actually be feeding the grass, not cool weather weeds. Please don’t get me started on my annual rant and rave about ’weed and feed’ formulations - these fertilizers are non-selective and target your trees and shrubs with the same ferocity as they target weeds. St. Augustine is a native Gulf Coast grass, and if it’s healthy it will choke out weeds.

Chances are you pruned and fed the azaleas when they quit performing the last of March. You’ll be right on schedule if you give them their second feeding the end of this month. If you have any other spring blooming shrubs that have stopped blooming, take the pruners to them also. Give them the third feeding the end of May. Don’t feed after June 1st.

Chances are, some of your ancestors were farmers, and chances are you’ve inherited the inclination to grow some veggies for your own table. Well, channel your Grandpa and let him advise you on what to put in your garden this month. He’ll be telling you there’s still time to plant southern peas, green and wax beans, and maybe even some limas. Kohlrabi, collards, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and summer squash would like to join the beans. Pick up some transplants of peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. Buy the largest tomato transplant you can afford, as time is running out on their growing season. They stop setting fruit once night time temps exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But until then - keep the salt shaker and pepper grinder at the ready.

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Shell Ginger