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!)

Learn With Us, April 2021

The Bull City Gardener Learning Series has virtual and in-person classes. More information can be found HERE

Durham Garden Forum: All About Shrubs – April 20, 2021, 7-8:30 PM via Zoom

With Paul McKenzie, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Area Agent, Vance/Warren County Centers
Shrubs are the backbone of a garden. Paul will review some recommended shrubs with an emphasis on woody shrubs, deer resistant plants and how to best use them in your landscape.
Via Zoom. For Registration Information, Contact durhamgardenforum@gmail.com

Order plants from the Durham Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale.

Guilford County Spring Gardening Virtual Classes

Chatham County is also offering Virtual Classes

As we await the phased reopening of Sarah P. Duke Gardens, there are many Online Classes being offered.

JC Raulston Arboretum offers additional online events.

Virtual and in-person classes are being held at the NC Botanical Garden

Triangle Gardener Magazine compiles a list of courses from many of the above sources and others.

The Spring Master Gardener Plant Sale Is Almost Here!

By The Plant Sale Committee

Spring is finally here, and so is the Durham Master Gardener plant sale! Online ordering will be April 6-13, with scheduled curbside pickup at the Cooperative Extension at 721 Foster Street in Durham April 17 and 18.

You can check out our huge selection of perennials, trees and shrubs, veggies and herbs, and colorful annuals now at BackyardTreasuresPlantSale.org.

The sale opens to the general public at 9am on Wednesday, April 7. A presale is available to Durham County Master Gardener Volunteers starting at 9am on Tuesday, April 6. Following your purchase, you will be able to schedule a pickup time for April 17 or 18. Someone must be available to pick up plants on one of those two days.  Some of the unsold plants will available for purchase, many at discounted prices, during the pickup weekend. Stay tuned for more details on the live sale.

Our mission is to help you find and care for the right plants for your needs, at a good price. Our plants are sourced or grown by Master Gardener Volunteers and friends, and we do our best to correctly identify varieties and colors. If you have any questions about choosing or caring for your plants, or are not completely satisfied with your purchase, we want to hear from you!

Please direct questions to durhammgplantsale@gmail.com.

Please share with all your local gardening friends!

Just a selection from a typical potting party. Photo by the Plant Sale Committee

The Plant Sale is held by the Durham County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association to raise funds for the Durham Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) program while providing educational opportunities to both the public and EMGVs, and volunteer opportunities for EMGVs.

Master Gardener Helpline (And How to Become a Master Gardener!)

Extension Master Gardeners working hard in the demonstration garden at 721 Foster St. Photo credit: Mary Knieram, EMGV

  With spring finally starting, now is a great time to plan for the coming year and get all of your burning garden questions answered! Whether you have just a few questions, or this is the year you’re ready to become an Extension Master Gardener and help answer others’ questions, there are plenty of ways to get connected.

Ask a Master Gardener!

  Even though the Extension office at 721 Foster St remains closed to most visitors, Extension Master Gardeners continue to answer questions left as either phone message or emails. Reach out to us at (919) 560 – 0528, or send pictures and questions to durhammastergardener@gmail.com. Extension Master Gardeners will provide information based on NC State University horticultural research, and best practices that take an integrated pest management approach, including cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical methods.

Soil Testing

  Looking for soil sample supplies? Our newly installed soil supply cabinet on the north side of the Extension building has everything you need to test your soil, and starting in April you can even leave samples on the bottom shelf. Samples will be delivered to the soil lab in Raleigh every one to two weeks, free of charge, until early November.

To learn more about soil testing, click here: https://durham.ces.ncsu.edu/2020/05/nows-the-perfect-time-to-test-your-soil/

Learn More About Becoming a Master Gardener

If you are looking for a way to up your gardening game and give back to the community, now’s the time to register for an information session to learn how to become an Extension Master Gardener. The Durham County Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteer program conducts a 15-week training program once every two years. The next program will be conducted August-December 2021. Classes are held once a week, on Thursdays, from 9:00-12:30. 

All applicants are required to attend an information session prior to submitting an application. Information sessions are scheduled for April 20, 2-3pm; April 22, 10-11am; April 28, 6-7pm; April 30, 3-4pm; May 4, 10-11am; and May 6, 6-7pm. Both the information sessions and the training classes will be held at the Durham County Extension Office, 721 Foster Street, Durham, or online as necessary. Register by calling 919-560-0521 or emailing pana_jones@ncsu.edu or durhammastergardener@gmail.com.

Additional program information can be found by clicking here: https://durhammastergardeners.com/become-a-master-gardener/

Learn With Us – March

Durham Garden Forum: Designing a Rightsized Foodscape with Brie Arthur of BrieGrows
Tuesday, March 16⋅7:00 – 8:30pm via Zoom

Foodscaping is all about making the most of the available square footage for a successful harvest. Brie shares insights on designing and managing a rightsized garden, including container growing, minimizing animal browsing, aeroponic systems and live screens. For Registration Information, contact durhamgardenforum@gmail.com

Bull City Gardener Learning Series: Online and In-person classes are being offered. Check the schedule and Register here: https://durham.ces.ncsu.edu/2021/01/bull-city-gardener-learning-series-live-and-virtual-events/

Click here for a selection of programs highlighted by Sarah P. Duke Gardens: https://gardens.duke.edu/resources

Triangle Gardener magazine has compiled another list of area programming: https://www.trianglegardener.com/garden-events/