Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - April Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna's article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.)

Have you noticed that Spring has two children? One is named March, and he is rough and unruly. The other is April, and she is soft and well behaved. They both have the same mother, but what a difference.

March gave us harsh winds, dull overcast days and unusually cool nights. A few warm days of that month tempted gardeners. And so we planted – knowing full well that we were playing a game of chance. After listening to weather reports, those of us who had been overanxious, had to haul tender potted plants back into a sheltered location. Those plants whose tender new roots were already moving through loosened garden soil shivered through the night, but raised their leaves to salute the warm morning sun.

But at last the well-behaved child has arrived, and barring some unforeseen quirk of nature, we can let out our collective breaths. This is the time when gardening can really be fun, as April is one of the most pleasant months of the year. Blossoms of sweet peas, snapdragons and petunias are at their best now. They will be gone when warmer weather arrives, so cut and enjoy them while you can. Their blooming period will be extended if you do.

Believe it or not - there are some annual flowers that love our hot summers, and they need to planted now. Well, they don’t actually love our summers, but they are heat tolerant, and this is the month to plant seeds of zinnias, periwinkles, portulaca, amaranthus and marigolds. If given enough moisture, they will stand at attention through the hottest months of the year.

If it has been a month since you pruned and fed the azaleas for the first time – give them their second feeding. Wait another month and give them their third and final feeding. Don’t fertilize after the first of June.

Find that bag of bulbs that you bought several weeks ago. The soil will be warm enough by the middle of the month to plant the caladiums, gladiolas, lycoris, calla and crinum lilies.

Did you plant some new landscape trees and shrubs this fall? Treat them to a good layer of mulch to reduce the stress from summer heat which we know is predictable. They will fare much better and grow significantly faster than your neighbor’s unmulched plantings. Mulches conserve moisture and control temperatures both hot and cold. Just be sure that any mulch near your foundation is kept 1 inch below the slab's weep holes. No point in putting out the welcome mat for termites. A light feeding of a 15-5-10 fertilizer would be appreciated at this time by those newly mulched trees and shrubs.

Of course you managed to get everything in your vegetable garden planted on time. Oh really - you missed a few things? Not to worry. But this is your last chance to plant seeds of summer squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, bush beans, and transplants of eggplants and tomatoes. Be advised that you have to plant large, well-established tomato plants. Little puny ones won’t have time to bear fruit before hot weather arrives.

So get outside and enjoy April - it doesn’t get much better than this.

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site ( on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed below Gardening in El Lago.

Sweetpea 2010