The Garden Awaits: April Gardening in Alachua County
April is Almost Here
Bees are buzzing, flowers blooming, and many plants are awaking from their winter-time slumber. Although many of us are cooped-up and getting a little stir-crazy, the garden awaits. Gardening is one of our most powerful tools we have for reducing stress and anxiety while improving our overall health. Last weekend, I, like many others spent much of their time outside. Our nice weather gave everyone an excuse to pull weeds, trim hedges, or catch-up on your general yard work for the season.
April is around the corner and it begins a prime landscape period for many Floridians. To get you prepared for the upcoming month this weekend’s article will help you prepare and organize your landscape to-do list.
What to Plant
Herbs and Vegetables
Every backyard gardening enthusiast should have an herb garden. A basic herb garden brings a culinary pizazz into your kitchen. Additionally, herb flavor in foods is a healthy alternative to salt in cooking. Due to our summer heat, we recommend planting the heat-loving herbs, such as rosemary, tarragon, and sage. You may also plant plenty of vegetables or fruiting trees in your landscape too. Before it gets too hot, try planting cantaloupe, corn, or tomatoes. Regarding fruit trees, the ideal time to plant them is between December and January, but anytime during their dormancy is adequate.
If you are wanting to bring lots of color to your landscape, April is an ideal time to plant bulbs. If you have a shadier landscape, consider planting caladiums. The endless varieties of colors provide any landscape with a show-stopping appeal. Other bulbs include blood lilies and canna lilies (canna x generalis). April is also primetime to introduce perennials and annuals to the landscape. You may also plant new shrubs, but always remember to follow Florida-Friendly Landscaping Programs’ first principle, “Right Plant, Right Place.”
Preparing for Maintenance
We can fill our landscapes with beautiful plants, but they also require maintenance. If we follow the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program’s principles, we know homeowners can significantly reduce water, pesticide, fertilizer, and maintenance requirements in their landscapes. This time of year, our regular landscape maintenance kicks into high gear because our plants are beginning to grow.
Ornamental Plant Maintenance for April
If you have and perennial grasses or bulbs, April is a great time to divide them. Ornamental grasses, like Florida’s native Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) can be divided into multiple clumps and replanted in your landscape. Shortly after dividing and replanting your ornamental grasses, they will quickly begin with fresh new growth.
Our turfgrasses are coming out of their dormancy too. Wait until April 15th to fertilize your turfgrass and only apply one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per application.
If we continue with minimal rain, many of your plants will require supplemental irrigation. Therefore it is important that you calibrate your irrigation system to ensure uniform application of water across your landscape. A catch-can test for your irrigation system is easy and very effective. Many of us may increase the size of our ornamental landscape beds. This could be a great opportunity to install micro-irrigation systems too.
For the pesky weeds that like to pop-up in our landscapes, maintaining two to three inches of mulch will help reduce weed pressure in your landscape beds. Hand pulling or cutting back weeds can be a great stress reliever too. If weeds in your landscape get too bad, please reach out to your local extension office for the best management advice.
The Garden Awaits
Overall, managing a healthy landscape is very important. By following UF/IFAS recommendations the principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, you will have a resilient and strong landscape that is beautiful, attracts important butterflies, and is calming.
As you go about your week and during a time of anxiety and stress, take solace, your garden awaits. And as always, I’m rooting for you.
If you would like to get more information about managing your landscape or garden, reach out to UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County’s Master Gardener Help Desk. Currently, email contact is the most direct at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also follow us on our Facebook page, UF/IFAS Alachua County Extension Master Gardeners for relevant gardening information and upcoming programs.