By Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners and Compiled by Amanda Steves and Ann Smith
Here’s a list of April garden tasks for the Texas Coastal Bend area from the Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardeners. Many plants are still “waking up” from the freeze. Be patient. The soil and weather is still cool and tropical plants need the heat to stimulate growth. If you don’t see any growth our advice is to continue to wait, particularly with palm trees. If you don’t see new growth, resist watering and fertilizer until you see new growth.
–It’s time to set out your summer-blooming transplants, container-grown shrubs and trees, tropical plants, and palms. In shady parts of the yard, you can plant groundcover such as liriope, mondo grass, or Asian jasmine.
–Spread a layer of compost in newly planted beds and then top off with mulch, keeping it away from plant stems or trunks.
–Pull weeds as soon as they pop up in your new beds, since competition with young plants can delay flowering.
–Because of our often-infertile soil in the Coastal Bend area, it’s important to give plants some extra nutrition. This can be done with compost, worm castings, slow-release fertilizers, or formulations for specific plant types. It’s better to under-feed than over-feed, so if you’re not sure how much to apply, go on the light side.
–Hibiscus, azaleas, roses and many tropical plants need monthly feedings through the spring and summer, unless they have yet to emerge from freeze. Be patient.
–Fertilize fruit trees and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs after they finish blooming.
–Palms need three feedings a year, and it’s time for the first one. Use a granular slow-release fertilizer that includes micronutrients with a 2:1:3 or 3:1:3 ratio of nitrogen 👎, phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Apply it to the soil in a band around the root ball, as far out as the canopy spreads.
–Most trees don’t need much in the way of added nutrients, although they all love a layer of compost or their own mulched leaves spread underneath.
–We’ve finally reached the month to prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as redbuds and azaleas and climbing roses. Be sure to wait until they have finished blooming.
–It’s warm enough to prune palms, if needed. Only remove completely dead fronds. When you make a cut, leave a few inches of the frond stem on the trunk.
–Lawn-mowing time is here again. Start with a sharp blade—either new or sharpened-up. This is because a dull blade tears the grass, which then turns brown on top, making a healthy lawn look bad.
–When you mow, only take about 1/3 of the grass blade off so you don’t deprive it food-producing leaves. Leave clippings on the ground to return their nutrients to the soil—they usually decompose in less than a week. Mow over them as you go, so they are less visible.
–When your grass is actively growing—you’ve had to mow it (not the weeds) twice—it’s time to fertilize. You can spread a half-inch of compost or use a slow-release fertilizer. More is not better, even with compost. Avoid high-phosphorus formulas because it tends to build up to destructive levels in sandy soil. Also, avoid weed-and-feed products, as they can be very harmful to trees and other landscape plants. Whatever you use, water it in to get it down to the soil.
–If you have live oaks, you probably have a yard full of leaves by now. Do your trees a favor and let the leaves stay on the ground. You can mow over them to create a natural mulch, or just leave them as they are. The fallen leaves will give their nutrients back to the trees.
–Do not prune your oaks in the spring—there’s a risk of oak wilt infection. If you accidentally injure an oak or are forced to cut a branch, paint it immediately.
–April brings a blossoming of insects and fungi. Check young foliage for signs of mildew, rust, or black spot, and remove the affected parts or treat with a fungicide.
–Spider mites, aphids, thrips, whitefly, and a host of caterpillars may show up on your plants. Examine them frequently, and take steps like a forceful spray of water, insecticidal soap, or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) as needed.
–Insects are part of the natural ecosystem and will be kept in check if you keep your plants healthy and allow beneficial predators to thrive. You can attract them to your garden by providing native plants, water, and shelter for birds, lizards, frogs, and toads. You can keep beneficial insects around by avoiding the use of insecticides and by having something in bloom all the time.
–Until mid-April, you can still put in summer veggies like tomato and pepper transplants, or sow seed for bush green beans, corn, cucumber, cantaloupe, okra, southern peas, watermelon, and squash. Mulch all around them, avoiding the stems.
–Be sure to thin your veggie seedlings—crowding results in weak, unproductive plants.
–Check your vegetable garden regularly for pests like caterpillars, stinkbugs, snails, slugs, and pillbugs. Most of these can be controlled by picking them off, baits, natural predators, or insecticidal soap.
–Try to keep the flower buds pinched off because herbs’ flavors change when they bloom.
DON’T MISS our upcoming Workshops and Brown Bag Lectures:
— A Sustainable Lifestyle in your own Backyard WORKSHOP, Saturday, April 10, 2021 10:00am – 12:00pm. Fee: $15
— “What’s That Buzz? Attracting Pollinators” FREE. Tuesday, April 20. Noon – 1:00pm
— “To Squish or Not to Squish” FREE Tuesday, May 18, 2021 Noon – 1:00pm
— “Kid Friendly Gardening & Crafting Fun WORKSHOP” Saturday, May 8. 10:00 am – 12:00 pm Fee: $5 per child (age 4+) // family discounts of $1 for each add’l sibling.
All events are held at 892 Airport Road, Rockport. To register for workshops go to: https://aspmgstore.org/collect…/2021-workshop-registration
Thanks to Master Gardeners Todd Cutting and Marthanne Mitchell for contributing to this list.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Aransas County Office is located at 892 Airport Road in Rockport. AgriLife Extension education programs serve people of all ages, regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.