by Gary Crispell, EMGV
Welcome to April in the age of pandemic. Who knew two months ago that we’d all be practicing “social distancing” (though a friend opined that we’re really practicing physical-distancing and e-socializing), sheltering-in-place from an invisible invader and dealing with a shortage of toilet paper? BTW, my sister suggested that those of y’all who do needlework should knit or crochet granny squares to make up for the shortage of TP. Talk about sustainable. And what a great time to be a bidet salesperson!
Oh, wait. This is supposed to be about gardening. My bad. At my age it is easy to get distracted. Did everybody enjoy the March-in-North Carolina weather roller-coaster? I think it does that so that we will appreciate April and May more. So, while we’re all confined to our own yards, (Surely “stay home” doesn’t mean “hide in the house with the covers pulled over your head!?!) let’s go garden.
Go ahead and fertilize the warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia, centipede). They will be breaking dormancy soon and will be grateful for the feed.
STOP fertilizing cool season grasses (tall fescue, bluegrass) unless you want to invite a host of fungal diseases to spend the summer decimating your lawn. Just sayin’.
Climate change may have made it too late to apply crabgrass preventer this year. The marker is to apply before the dogwoods bloom (usually mid-April), but mine have already begun to open.
Warm season grasses can be planted by mid-month. Seeding is possible, but not recommended. Sodding and plugging are the preferred methods. NC State’s Turf Files website is an excellent resource for information on all things grass in North Carolina. See resources below.
Any shrubbery that you didn’t get around to in March. See also: Lawn Care.
It is time to get giddy in the garden! The average last frost date in Durham, NC is April 13, give or take 12 days. I suspect this year it was in mid-March. So, put on those knee pads and plant, plant, plant.
From seed: melons, squashes, pumpkin, beans, cucumbers, corn (okra at the end of the month). Transplants: tomatoes and peppers. Hopefully your soil has already been amended according to the recommendations of your soil test 🙂 Please plant enough to share with those who may not have any, especially this year because that might be a neighbor who works in a “non-essential” industry.
Remove winter damage from trees and shrubs.
Refrain from pruning spring flowering shrubs such as azaleas (Rhododendron x hybrid), lilac (Syringa spp.), forsythia, spiraea, weigelia, etc. until after the petals fall from the blooms, but before the end of June.
Prune fruiting shrubs like holly (Ilex spp.), and pyracantha while they are in bloom so as not to remove all of this year’s berries.
Prune spring flowering trees such as flowering cherry (Prunus hybrids) and redbud (Cercis spp.) only as needed for damage removal and/or aesthetics.
Be on the lookout for the following pests: azalea lace bugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus and tea scales and hemlock/ juniper-spruce spider mites. Spray only as needed and follow label instructions.
Spray iris bed for borers.
Continue in perpetuity a rose spray program (please consider organic products).
Treat cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) for worms.
Spray squash plants near the base of the stem to control squash vine borers. Continue doing so weekly until June 1 using a pesticide labeled specifically for vegetables.
Spray apple and pear trees with streptomycin while they are in bloom to control fire blight. Apply twice. Once at early bloom and again at full bloom. If the weather is rainy a third application may be desirable.
Begin weekly fungicide applications for bunch grapes.
Begin weekly fruit tree spraying once the flower petals fall. Again, please consider organic products.
Other Stuff to Do to Avoid Spring Cleaning of the House and Garage
Mulch, mulch, mulch. And did I mention mulch? Unless you are a very recent arrival to the area you know that at some point in the coming summer it will be HOT and at some point, it will be DRY and at some point, it will be both simultaneously. Then you will be glad you MULCHED. Mulch will help to mitigate the effects of a Piedmont North Carolina summer and cut down on your water bill.
And, of course, like death and taxes, there will be weeds. Unless there are an overwhelming number of them, pulling is the recommended (and therapeutic) method of removal. Just be sure that if you get down low enough to pull weeds you can get yourself back up because if you need assistance it will require a block and tackle apparatus in order for the assistor to get you up from a distance of six feet. You don’t want to go there.
Stay healthy. Stay connected. Take care of each other and keep gardening.
Resources and Further Reading
Everything you need to know about lawn care in NC
About rose fertilizers
If you grow roses, learn more about the Rose Rosette Virus
Pruning trees and shrubs