In Your Garden
Your garden will respond this month to the long days of sunshine and warm weather. The annuals you planted earlier in the year should be looking their best and the fruit trees should be loaded with fruit. Some of the vegetables you’ve planted are being harvested and your garden overall should look spectacular. Spend more time outside doing simple chores and enjoy what you’ve created.
Color: While many of your annuals are probably at their peak, it’s not too late to add a few plants to your beds and pots. Marigolds, Salvia, Zinnia, Verbena and many other varieties are available to plant in the sun. As always, bedding Begonias and Impatiens are available for the shade along with Coleus and Kalanchoe.
Fruits & Vegetables: Plums and Peaches on your fruit trees should be ready to pick and enjoy. Early crops such as beans and cucumbers may be ready to harvest this month. Remove fruit and vegetables as they ripen. Leaving them on the plant can encourage pests and diseases. You can replant now for another vegetable crop later this year. Prune spent canes off of fruiting vines.
Lawn: Raising the blade on your lawnmower and allowing the blades to grow to 2-2 ½” will help keep the ground moisture in your lawn. In consideration of the drought, be sure to establish a twice weekly watering schedule.
Roses & Flowers: Deadhead roses and feed after the bloom cycle. Keep deadheading all flowers to prolong the bloom period.
Mulch flower beds and around shrubs and trees to help retain soil moisture through these typically hottest months.
Like every month, do a test run on your irrigation system to ensure that all lines are clear and emitters are working efficiently. Make sure that you establish a watering schedule for plants in pots that are not part of the irrigation system and again – be sure to establish a watering schedule in compliance with the drought mandates (all are two days a week – but check this link to find your local water agency’s rules: http://www.sdcwa.org/find-your-water-district
Viewing your landscape this month you have a real feeling of satisfaction. The flowers are in full bloom, vegetables and fruit trees are both producing and the weather has warmed up just enough to be enjoyable. Spend time in your yard. Relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Color: For a quick-fix to your garden, add fast growing annuals like Petunias, Vinca, Marigolds and Zinnia. There is a plethora of color available right now to add interest to your flower beds and borders. Experiment and try something different. New varieties of Alyssum, Celosia, Coreopsis, Foxglove and Gazania are all great summer color. Plant those now. Also try Dianthus, Hollyhocks and Penstemon. For color in the shade, besides Impatiens and Begonias, try Coleus, Kalanchoe and Heuchera. Continue to pinch back faded blossoms.
Fruits & Vegetables: Summer vegetables such as squash, beans and tomatoes that are planted much after the first of the month, won’t be in the ground long enough to give you a significant crop. Get them in right away. There’s still time to plant beets, beans, melons, radishes, squash and heat tolerant lettuces. Plant the last patch of corn this month. Keep fruit and vegetables picked. Remove any fallen produce that may attract unwanted pests or encourage diseases that may spread to other parts of your landscape. Be sure to keep herbs pinched back.
Lawn: Keep in mind the water restrictions recently enforced – to irrigate ornamental landscapes no more than two days a week across the region – See more at: http://www.sdcwa.org/state-water-use-reduction-mandates-start-today for more details and your water agency’s specific watering schedule. Lightly fertilize and be sure to mow on a weekly basis. If you haven’t raised the blade on your lawn mower, raise it now to about 2 – 2 ½”. It’s also a good time to have the blade re-sharpened.
Roses & Flowers: Please see our blog – “How to take care of your roses when in a drought” for this month’s advice on roses.
Irrigation: Again, keep in mind the water restrictions enforced state-wide on June 1st. Rebates are available for switching out your irrigation products. One to take advantage of is for installing rotor type sprinklers (MP Rotators) instead of fixed spray sprinklers. These rotating sprinklers reduce runoff and put out about 1/3 the water of a regular spray head. Check the Be Water Wise website for rebates – www.bewaterwise.com. Rebates are also available for various water efficient irrigation tools such as weather based irrigation controllers and soil moisture sensors. Check the SoCal Water Smart website for details – www.socalwatersmart.com
May’s weather is often unpredictable. It can bring an occasional shower, fog and extreme heat along with what is commonly known as ‘May Gray’, overcast skies. May is also one of the busiest and most satisfying months in the garden. There is still planting to be done, some pruning, continual deadheading, mowing, weeding, mulching and much more. At the end of the day when you look back at all you’ve accomplished, you’re pleased with your efforts and satisfied with a job well done.
Color: As a guideline, most annuals and perennials take 6-8 weeks to mature from a 4″ pot. Use this timeline when planning color planting for special events you’re hosting such as graduations, weddings, and family gatherings. Plant far enough ahead so that the plants are looking their best. Feed hanging baskets and plants in pots every 3 weeks to keep them looking lush. Now is the time to plant heat loving flowers such as ageratum, asters, celosia, chrysanthemum, coleus, bedding begonias, gazania, impatiens, lobelia, marigolds, nicotiana, petunias, Shasta daisies, verbena and zinnias among many more. Try something new this season and spice up your garden. Pinch back stems to encourage full plants that will produce lots of flowers.
Fruits & Vegetables: Since the weather has warmed up, it the perfect time to plant exotic fruit trees like bananas, avocados, citrus and mangos. Keep well mulched to retain moisture. Plant beans, beets, carrots, celery, eggplant, melons and tomatoes. Pesky caterpillars are starting to appear. Treat them with a nontoxic insecticide to keep them under control. When trying to locate the elusive tomato hornworm, sprinkle the plant with water and watch for movement as they shake the water off of themselves.
Lawn: Mow at least once a week to maintain a healthy lawn. If you lowered the blade on your lawnmower in the fall raise it back up now so that the fresh cut lawn is 2″ to 2 ½” tall. This will help retain moisture in the soil when the days get hotter. Fertilize on a regular basis to stimulate a lush lawn. Weeds that appear in a lawn can be a sign of stress. Adjusting the Ph closer to 7 will help the grass overtake the weeds. Consider renting an aerator. An aerator makes holes in the surface of the law so that water can easily penetrate to the roots.
Roses & Flowers: This is your last chance to plant late blooming plants such as dahlia, gladiolus and tuberoses. To keep roses in full bloom, feed and water regularly and dead head any spent blooms. Watch for mildew and treat as soon as detected to keep it under control. For fragrance, also plant gardenias, jasmine and pittosporum. Remove spent flowers from spring bulbs but leave the foliage. Feed now for strong growth and flower production in the spring.
Irrigation: Test your sprinklers to make sure all heads and emitters are working properly. Adjust your sprinklers for longer days and the time change. Keep young plants adequately watered to help them establish in the garden. As always, avoid overhead irrigation late in the day.
Mulch, mulch, mulch– Mulching keeps the weeds down and water in while looking esthetically pleasing.
Thin fruit off of fruit trees to promote healthy growth. Branches weighed down by heavy fruit can break and distort the shape of the tree. Twist off excess fruit so the remaining fruit is spaced every 4-6 inches on alternate sides of the branch. Suckers on your fruit trees are taking nutrients away from fruit production. Remove them to encourage stronger, larger and tastier fruit. Feed and water fruit trees regularly to keep nutrient levels up. Leaves damaged from leaf curl or other diseases should be removed and disposed of. Do not mulch or compost as this will spread the disease.
Along with everything else, the weeds are growing substantially this month also. Keep on top of weeding so that seeds don’t spread around the garden. Weeding the day after watering makes the task much simpler.
Lightly prune winter and spring flowering trees and shrubs after the blooms have expired. Heavy pruning should be done later in the year when the heat has passed but before flower buds have set.
April in Southern California is perfect for playing in your garden. The days are longer and warmer and there’s always something to do. Plant every chance you get. Local garden centers are loaded with all that new and interesting this month. Drop by discover something exciting.
Work with what you’ve got. If you would like to grow herbs and vegetables but don’t have a large space consider establishing a container garden. A variety of inexpensive pots in various shapes and sizes can be used to cultivate a ‘patio garden’. In pots or in the ground, group tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro together and you have a ‘salsa garden’. Be creative in the space you’re allowed.
Color: Asters, Coleus and Zinnias are showing up in the garden centers now. April is one of the months with the largest selection of flowering plants available. Be creative and make your own hanging baskets and potted patio plants using some of your favorites. Continue to dead head all flowering plants for optimum flower production.
Fruits & Vegetables: Plant Citrus, Bananas, Avocados, Guava and other frost sensitive fruit trees this month. Fertilize existing fruit trees to help promote good fruit production. Additionally, thin excess fruit from young trees before the fruit reaches the size of an almond. This will prevent undue stress being put on the tree. Peaches should be thinned to every 5″ on alternate sides of the branch with plums, nectarines and apricots spaced at every 3″. Time to put in vegetables such as beans, corn, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes if you haven’t done so. Also plant melons, squash and gourds.
Lawn:If you have a problem with crabgrass, apply a pre-emergent herbicide before it gets out of control. Mow your lawn frequently – every week. To keep a healthy lawn, never cut more than 1/3 of the length of the blade of grass. Fertilize regularly. Your lawn needs between 3-5 inches of water in April. Make sure it gets about 1/2″ twice a week. (In most sprinkler systems, it takes about 20 minutes to get 1/2″ of water.)
Perennials: It’s not too late to divide perennials such as Agapanthus, Moraea and Hemerocallis. Make sure they’re planted immediately after division. Divide and transplant grasses too. For bushier flowering shrubs, pinch new growth to encourage fullness at the base of the plant.
Pests: Treat aphids, spider mites and white fly with insecticidal soap or a brisk spray of water.
Roses & Flowers: Roses should be at their peak right now. Continue to dead head and feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
Irrigation: Keeping an eye on the weather, set your irrigation for the longer, warmer days. Check your system to make sure that everything is working efficiently. A deep, thorough watering is better than a short, shallow watering. Deep watering encourages roots to go deep which will benefit the plant later this summer.
Also: Once the weather has warmed and the plants in your garden are beginning to show signs of life, prune off any cold damage that may have been inflicted during the winter. Cut just below where the dead branches begin. If you’re not sure about what is damaged or not, wait until next month and reassess the damage.
Stake taller growing plants now while they’re smaller and easier to manage.
Sheer formal hedges and prune evergreens in preparation of their spring growth spurts.
Prune and fertilize groundcovers to remove dead patches and encourage new growth.
March is a very busy month in your garden but it also holds a lot of promise. The plantings you did in the fall are budding and blooming and there is a sense of satisfaction for a job well done. It also brings to your attention the things you need to get busy on so that the whole yard thrives through the coming months.
Now is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. You may want to wait another month or so before planting subtropicals like Bougainvillea, Cannas and Hibiscus. Prune spring flowering shrubs and vines after they’ve bloomed to maintain their shape. Most evergreens should be pruned now before new growth starts.
Color: Begin to replace winter annuals as they fade. Marigolds, Petunias, Nicotiana and Snapdragons are available to plant for summer color. Cut back and clean foliage on perennial color such as Impatiens and Begonias. Replace any color that was damaged during the winter months. Look for new introductions to add a little something new to your garden.
Fruits & Vegetables: Early tomatoes, squash, peas, onions and beans can be planted now. There’s still time to get in another round of cool weather crops. Consider planting a grouping of different varieties of lettuce. The variation in colors and textures creates interest and function. Fertilize fruit trees and make sure they get adequate water to help with fruit production. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer so growth is directed toward the fruit and roots. Plant strawberries. Plant or freshen up your herb garden with new varieties or replace plants that didn’t fare well over the winter.
Lawn: Continue to mow your lawn on a regular basis. The blade should be set at about 2”, raising it to 3” when the temperatures pick up this summer. Do maintenance on your lawnmower making sure the blade is sharp and ready for the increased workout that’s coming up. Feed your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer and do so regularly through the growing season.
Perennials: Divide overgrown perennials such as Daylilies, Agapanthus, Iris and Lilies including grasses. Be sure to use a sharp shovel or knife and replant the divisions right away. Fuchsia produce blooms on new wood. Prune back by about two-thirds to reshape and encourage growth. Repot plants in hanging baskets or in pots with fresh potting mix.
Roses & Flowers: Roses should be full of fresh growth since they should have been pruned back in January. Fertilize and dead-head regularly to encourage bloom production. Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons should be pruned once the last flower has faded. Using the notes you took over the winter, create a new flower bed. Visit your local independent garden center and try something new.
Irrigation: Rain returns week of March 7- don’t forget to inspect your drainage systems and erosion controls. This is a great time to get down your pre-emergent and fertilizer applications. Watch the weather closely and turn your sprinklers off and on accordingly. After a deep rain, wait until the soil dries out a bit before turning the system back on. Irrigating saturated soil is just a waste of precious water. Take advantage of a warm, sunny day by spending it outside testing your entire irrigation system. Make sure the timer is working property. Run through the cycles and ensure that all heads and emitters are working efficiently. Give deciduous trees a deep watering to encourage bloom and leaf development. Remember – know your water agency’s mandated watering restrictions: http://www.sdcwa.org/find-your-water-district/ .
Also: Applying a pre-emergent weed killer will save you time later in the season. Do not apply in areas where you plan to sow seeds for vegetables or flowers. Pull weeds while they’re small before they have a chance to spread seeds around your garden.
The last few months, pests in the garden have slowed down to a crawl. Warm weather is going to bring them out in force. Watch for aphids on new growth. Use the garden hose to remove these and other pests until the beneficial bugs appear which are usually quick to follow. Snails and slugs are busy munching right now. Trap or bait them to keep them from damaging the plants in your garden.
Mulch new areas and remulch existing planting areas to keep weeds under control, conserve water and eliminate erosion. Mulch layer should be about 2-3” deep. For those of you growing stone fruit and vineyards make sure to apply protectant fungicides to ensure your crop is protected from diseases.
Fertilize everything! As we start the growing season, it’s important that nutrients that have been depleted in the soil are replaced. The act of fertilizing is to treat the soil which in turn benefits the plant. When applying fertilizer, imagine the root system of the plant you’re working with. If it’s a tree, the roots may have spread out quite a distance from the trunk. The soil in that area needs to be treated also. A bedding plant will have a relatively small root system so the application doesn’t need to be disbursed that far from the base of the plant. Remember to NEVER fertilize a dry plant as this can cause the root system to burn. It is best to irrigate, fertilize, irrigate.