Sunday, May 1, 2016
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April is the month of transition for gardens
This article by Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Director, and Horticulturist, is provided complimentary to readers this week. Look for Finch's "South Texas Gardener" every week in the Wilson County News.
April is a month of transition in the garden. There are a number of plants that decline and should be replaced.
Many of the cool weather flowers were hit very hard by the long periods of freezing temperatures we had in February so you may not have as many plants to pull this year prior to new plantings.
Snapdragons usually begin declining in April, although if the weather is cool, they can bloom into May. Rust is usually the culprit that takes the snapdragons out. You will notice yellow speckles on the top of the leaf. Look under the leaf and you will see the typical rust spores. Cut as many blooms as possible for the house and enjoy the rest because the plants will decline quickly as the rust spreads through the bed. Sometimes isolated plants will escape and survive into the summer.
A good replacement for snapdragons are zinnias. Dreamland transplants are offered in most nurseries. They will begin blooming in the garden within two weeks of being planted. They make good cut flowers and are utilized by butterflies and hummingbirds for nectar.
Cyclamen are not attacked by rust but they will quit blooming late in the month as the temperature warms as well. I just leave them in place and plant caladiums transplants in the same bed. For something different you may want to try coleus. There are some spectacular deep maroons and yellow-greens that are showy in the shady summer garden. Begonias are also a good choice for the shade. Plant them early in the summer and they have good drought tolerance. They are a better choice than impatiens. Impatiens struggle in our summer dry period.
To replace pansies, consider purslane and moss rose.
If any of the bluebonnet seed managed to germinate in our dry fall weather, they should be at full bloom early in the month. Remember that any of the wildflowers that you want to naturalize must be allowed to mature and drop their seed.
To cover for the wildflowers once the bloom period ends, spread some cosmos seed. It will germinate and bloom in the same conditions as wildflowers. The gold and yellow mixes are most prolific but you can also plant pinks, lavenders and white cosmos. Butterflies like cosmos very much.
In the vegetable garden it is time to plant tomatoes and peppers. Consider the variety Tycoon if you had trouble with the “Yellow Tomato Virus” last fall. It is resistant to the virus. Other selections available this year will be Celebrity, 444, Solar Fire, Phoenix and Sun Pride. The popular large cherry tomato should also be available.
Any of the hot peppers do well in South Texas gardens. If you like a bell pepper for salads but have had trouble growing bell peppers try sweet banana. They are mild and easy to grow.
Use tomato, pepper and egg plant transplants. April is also a good time to plant okra and southern peas. Harvest southern peas in the stage before the pods show definition and use them just like green beans.
Fertilize your lawn after you have mowed real grass two times. Mow St. Augustine at 3 inches, zoysia at 2 inches, Bermuda at 1.5 inches and buffalo at 5 inches. Bermuda and buffalo grass will germinate late in the month when the weather warms. Plant it before then, and there will be no germination.
Keep your hummingbird feeders full and rinse them well between fillings. The American goldfinches will start to show breeding plumage this month but may not leave for their Northern breeding grounds until next month.
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