April traditionally is the beginning of spring, welcomed by blooms, warm weather and the return of life into the garden. However, with that comes an increase in work for the gardener, with weeds and pests coming on strong and an increased need for maintenance of your lawn and landscape. Let’s take a look at some helpful tips and information to help you this April.
April is a tax season and many people have money on their minds, but one type of dollar is not welcomed by most gardeners. Dollarweed, also known as pennyroyal, is a native to Florida growing in moist areas and even in waterways. The round leaves are somewhat attractive and it does have a small white bloom. But mostly this is known as a nuisance weed of the lawn and landscape.
Due to its perennial nature and strong root system, it can be hard to control, so be sure to remove all of the roots if you are hand-pulling or it will surely return.
Dollarweed does have one major use: as a signal that an area is overly wet. If you are irrigating areas that have a lot of this plant, cut down your irrigation events and only water when the grass shows signs of stress such as folding leaf blades. This can help reduce the growth of Dollarweed. If herbicides are necessary, be sure that it is a product that is safe for the species of your turfgrass and to follow all precautions and directions on the products label. For more information on effective herbicides and their use, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
Stimulating your lawn
By mid-April, your lawn has woken up from its winter dormancy and it may be time to fertilize. We recommend getting a soil test before applying fertilizer so you can accurately meet the needs of your turf based upon current soil fertility. For more information about soil nutrient testing, check out the Extension Soil Testing Lab from the University of Florida at https://soilslab.ifas.ufl.edu/. Forms and information are also available from your local Extension office.
Some general rules to fertilizing your lawn include applying slow-release products, using fertilizer that is low in phosphorous and only fertilizing after April 15 each year. One or two applications per year is usually enough, but stay away from “Weed and Feed” products and apply any pesticides or herbicides on their own. Finally, do not apply lime without first getting a soil test. Lime raises soil pH and many yards in our area already have high pH and this is an issue that is very difficult to correct.
Time to get planting
Early spring is one of the best times of year to plant in the landscape. While at times it may be dry, the cooler (than summer anyway) temperatures help to lower stress on new plants during establishment. Think about adding in new garden areas or what plants may work well in your established beds if you have the space. Be sure to take into consideration how the needs of your new plants match the characteristics of your yard before purchasing and planting. If you are looking for plants that will return year after year, definitely check the USDA hardiness zone of what you are buying to ensure that it will survive next winter in our area where the predominate zone is 9a.
When you are ready to plan, dig a hole at least 1½ times the width of the new plant and only dig it deep enough so about an inch of the plants root ball is above the existing soil line. This helps keep the crown of the plant above ground and increase chances of survival.
Back fill around the plant once you have it set in place. A this point you can also mix in some compost or organic matter into the soil going back into the hole. The time period when the plant is getting acclimated to your landscape is known as establishment and it will need water regularly, making sure it does not dry out at all for the first six months to a year after planting.
Things to plant in April:
Vegetables: Beans, cantaloupes, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, kohlrabi, New Zealand spinach, okra, peppers, pumpkin, Southern peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and watermelon.
Annuals: Celosia, coleus, calliopsis, dusty miller, exacum, gaillardia, gazania, geranium, hollyhock, impatiens, lobelia, marguerite daisy, marigold, nicotiana, ornamental pepper, pentas, phlox, portulaca, rudbeckia, salvia, sweet William, thunbergia, torenia, verbena, periwinkle and zinnia.
Bulbs, Tubers or Rhizomes: African lily, agapanthus, allium, alstroemaria, Amazon lily, blood lily, caladium, canna lily, crinum lily, dahlias, gloriosa lily, kaffir lily, lily, spider lily, tiger flower, tritonia and walking iris.
Wayne Hobbs is an extension agent in environmental horticulture for Clay County.