April: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Let’s hear it for March ’cause for a March it was pretty decent.  And it went away just in time for APRIL!!  We gardeners have been waiting for this since October.  The only thing more fun than planting is the satisfaction of the harvest.  FYI; the frost-free date here is April 11th, but don’t we all push that envelope?  I mean if we don’t have tomatoes by Flag Day what’s the point?  Since there are lots of things to do this month let us commence.


This is the first month to fertilize Bermuda and Zoysia grasses.  Wait another month to fertilize Centipede.  DO NOT (He repeated.) fertilize cool season grasses (Fescue, Bluegrass) again until Fall.

You can start new warm season turf now.  Bermuda and Zoysia can be seeded although sodding and plugging are the preferred methods.  They are the only ways to do Centipede.

Maintain a cutting height of 3”-4” for cool season grasses.


Fertilize any shrubs that didn’t get done in March.

Fruit trees should be fertilized depending on how much fruit is expected (more fruit=more fertilizer).


Just about anything and everything can be planted by mid-month.  All hands on deck in the veggie garden.  Beans, cucumbers, melons, squashes, peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, etc., etc. can be planted now.  Be sure to plant enough to share with those who might not have any.


Remove any winter damage.

Spring flowering plants can be pruned soon after the blooms fall off.  Waiting too late will disrupt next year’s bud set.

Prune fruiting shrubs [hollies (Ilex sps), Pyracantha, etc.] should be pruned while they are blooming so you can see where to leave enough blooms to produce fruit.

Prune spring flowering trees such as Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’), flowering cherry/peach (Prunus x hybrids), redbud (Cercis canadensis), etc. after they bloom.


The following insects are becoming obnoxious this month:  azalea lace bugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus/tea scales, hemlock/juniper/spruce spider mites.  Treat them as needed with an appropriate insecticide following label instructions.  

Treat iris beds for iris borers.

Treat cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc.) for worms.  Using an organic product containing BT (Bacillus thuringiensis—a bacteria the affects the worms) is a good green solution.

Spray squash plants near the base of the stem at first bloom to control squash vine borers.  This treatment should continue weekly until early June using a properly labeled insecticide.

Spray apple and pear trees with streptomycin while in bloom to control fire blight.  Spray twice, once at early bloom and once at full bloom.  Rainy weather may necessitate a third application.

Begin a weekly fungicide program for bunch grapes.

Continue (ad infinitum) a rose spray program.

Begin a weekly spray program for fruit trees after the blooms have dropped.  Organic summer horticultural oils are environmentally friendly options.

Always check plants for pests before applying any pesticide.  Well, except for borers which are busy staying out of site and undetected by (Wait for it.) boring.


One can always mulch.  It helps keep roots from drying out and protects them from getting too hot during a typical piedmont North Carolina summer.  As a bonus mulch suppresses weed growth.

Be sure to take a minute occasionally to slow down and enjoy the wonder of Spring.  It’s good for the soul.

Get vaccinated and keep your mask on.  Stay safe, y’all.

*Resources and Further Reading

Organic Lawn Care Guide

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

General Pruning Tips

North Carolina Pruning Calendar

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)