Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1 Garden Newsletter

Dear Garden Friends,

Welcome, Spring! Has anyone else noticed how everything is greening up and becoming beautiful lately? I love this time of year so much that I always thought if I had a daughter, I would name her Spring. Well, I have several, and none of them named Spring. Perhaps someday!

April Checklist:
1. SEARCH AND DESTROY. Inspect your yard for weeds, this probably won’t take a magnifying glass if your yard looks anything like mine right now. Spray ‘em, pick ‘em, stomp ‘em, kill ‘em! Make sure you get the roots! And don’t let them stay in your yard to multiply from seed or layering. Bag ‘em and trash ‘em.
2. How would you look if you lived on water alone? Both you and your plants look better when fed properly. Malnutrition happens to green things, too. This, the green growing season, is the best time to feed your plants. Whether you are the Miracle-Gro type or the mulch and manure type, this is a good time to let your plants feast.
3. Grow your watermelon and eat it, too. This is the last call to get your fresh summer salads and salsas planted. It’s a great time to put out squash (especially zucchini), cantaloupe, watermelon, eggplant, and peppers.
4. Time for a trim. Keep your trees trimmed up now while they get their growth spurt to help keep them structurally strong come the Monsoon Winds. Keeping shrubs trimmed this time of year will lower their flowering capability, but keep their growth in the shape and manageability you might want. I prefer flowers, personally, but I don’t blame you people with green yoga ball shapes in your yard, either. It’s your garden; grow with it what and how you will!
5. Journal it! Keep track of your work and get all the glory. Even if all you do is scratch “pulled weeds” onto little square on the calendar, you’ll be glad you did. If you find come summer that “pulled weeds” showed up 8 times in two months, then next year it will be your reminder to do a little more weed prevention. It’s especially helpful when planting seeds and plantlets so that you can measure their growth or recall what was planted when you don’t recognize the seedlings coming up.
6. Location, location, location. Have houseplants? This is their biggest growing season. It is also the time of year that windows begin to heat up in the desert. Time to turn your plants and move them back from the window a little way so they don’t get burned. Remember, most common houseplants are shade-loving tropical plants in their natural habitat.

That’s it! Short is sweet. You’ll find below my standard itemized-by-category garden hints. Get out and garden while the weather is great!

Hands dirty,

Trish’s April Suggestions

(alphabetical by category)


It’s time to remove your cool-season annuals and plunk in something for summer. Trish’s Hint: You can save a few annuals to perrenialize if you don’t mind the work of moving them. Move your gerbera daisies and geraniums into a shady place for summer, and they will keep on going!

Plant and sow now: aster, coneflower, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, hollyhock, lisianthus, Madagascar periwinkle (commonly called vinca), pentas, portulaca, sanvitalia, sunflower (kids love this one because it gets taller than Daddy!), verbena, vinca, and my personal favorite of this time of year: zinnia.

Fertilizing: If you are a fertilizing gardener, do it now. You can’t do it later when it gets too hot or it will stress your plants. Work now, play later.


I love the bulbs that come out this time of year. My faves? Amaryllis, Caladium, Calla, Canna, and Spider Lily. Last month it was time to divide your bulbs, or bulb chop. This month it is time to bulb shop!

Planting: calla, canna, crinum, dahlia, habranthus, montbtretia, oxblood lily, queen of the Nile, rain lily, spider lily. (Keep an eye out for a picture upcoming on the blog from last fall’s lily display in the pond!)

Water: To keep blooms coming on your flowering bulbs such as iris, keep them well watered this time of year. You can let them dry out after the show.


Honestly, I don’t know much about the cacti and succulents other than the ones I have had have never died or needed any help from me to stay alive. Thus, they are my friends.

Plant: Now is a good time to begin planting your desert native perennials and succulents. Ocotillo are about to make their show, so that is a good choice if you don’t mind the thorns.


It’s still a good time to plant citrus and figs. If you have citrus, it is time to check the trunks for paint. Citrus trees are actually not trees at all, but huge bushes (picture in your mind’s eye one of the citrus groves… do you see how they are really just big bushes with no trunk?). We home growers and landscape maintenance people like to trim them up to look like trees. However, God designed the bark of the citrus to be shaded, as it would be in nature growing as a bush. If your citrus is cut up to look like a tree, then the bark will need protected from sun-burn. This is why we paint the bark white. You wouldn’t let your fair children stay outside all year long with no protection from the sun. Don’t let your sun-sensitive citrus bark do it either. Get out and paint those trees!

Fertilize: Time to fertilize your berries and grapes!


For the sake of time, I am skipping grasses this month. There isn’t much to say other than that is a good time to plant summer grasses like Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia.


Something I have always wanted to do is grow a butterfly garden. I haven’t just because I am not too keen on caterpillars when they invade my veggie garden and skeletonize my passion vines. I like to hold them, put them in a jar for my kids to enjoy, and release them as butterflies, but that doesn’t mean I want 300 of them, either. Thus I have never done it. But you flower gardeners out there could do it, and this is the best time to plant all of those butterfly attracting flowers! Coincidentally, you will also attract hummingbirds. Lucky you!

Planting: blood flower, blue mist, columbine, desert milkweed (if you haven’t done any weeding lately, you may already have this growing in your yard!) damianita, eupatorium, four o’clocks, gerbera daisy, globe mallow, hollyhock, lantana, penstemon, pine leaf milkweed, red justicia, red salvia, Russian sage.


I hope you rose-growers didn’t miss bare-root season, but if you did, you can still plant container-grown roses and miniature roses now!

Care: Remove spent roses to encourage more blooms to come on.

Fertilize: You can continue to fertilize all this month. I really like to use spent coffee grounds from Starbucks. They will bag them up for you and put a sticker on it that says, “Grounds for Gardeners”. Gotta love Starbucks!


I’m skipping this category this month, too. Suffice it to say you can still plant desert-adapted trees and shrubs now, but wait a month for palms. If you have a specific question, feel free to email me or post it on the comments section of this blog!


This is a great time to plant a summer garden for your kids to enjoy during their long break from school! Easy plants for kids to try would include melons, cucumbers and peanuts! Peanuts are really cool because they have the pretty flowering bean plant on top, and underground grow the peanuts, which are actually in the roots. How cool is that?!

Planting and sowing: Basil, bay, black-eyed peas, bush beans (plant early), carrots, Cuban oregano, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic chives, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, lemon grass, lima beans, marigolds (keep FAR AWAY from any type of bean plant!), marjoram, melons, Mexican mint, Mexican oregano, okra, oregano, peanuts, peppers, radish, snap beans, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, pole beans (plant early), pumpkin, spearmint, thyme, tomato (large transplants only at this stage of the game), watermelon

Work: Start to think about shading your tomato plants around the end of this month if we get close to the 100 degree mark!