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.)

April sashayed in on winter’s coattails – and I think we were all overjoyed to see her. April brings perfect gardening weather – the kind of temperatures that don’t tend to leave you all sweaty and miserable when you’re digging and planting. You might have noticed that you need to be watering on a regular basis these days, as the fruits of your past labor are beginning to show. Hopefully your garden is a mass of blooms – cut them and enjoy them. Spring flowers will stretch out their bloom time if you bring them in the house where you can enjoy their beauty and fragrance. Just be sure and remove those old spent blooms that you left outside. Leaving them be tells the plant that its job is almost done. All that is left is to produce seed (thereby propagating its species) – which is a plant’s sole purpose in life. But you’re in control here – well, sort of. If you don’t let a flowering plant go to seed after its first flush of blossoms, it will continue to bloom over a longer period.

April is prime time for sowing seeds of those heat tolerant annuals such as marigolds, zinnias, and periwinkle. If you plant annuals in containers, remember that each time you water you are leaching nutrients from the soil. All container grown plants need regular fertilization.

Keep your roses well watered, and if the flowers have faded on the climbers give them a good feeding after you have pruned them. As long as you are in the pruning mode take the pruners to the other spring-blooming shrubs that have finished their performance such as azaleas, spirea, forsythia and wisteria. Oh, and by the way, if your azaleas have finished showing off, give them their first of three feedings. Feed every 30 days, but not after June 1st. A bit of soil acidifier at that time would make them feel right at home.

I know you are enjoying that gorgeous Easter lily sitting on the coffee table, but did you know that it would love to live in your garden when it’s finished blooming? You might also want to plant a few caladiums at the same time. Usually by Easter the soil has warmed enough for them to snuggle in happily and give you a display of colorful heart-shaped leaves throughout the summer and into fall. Whites and greens thrive in the shady nooks of your garden, while the reds prefer a bit of sun.

Those chrysanthemums that gave you winter color should be dug and separated this month or next. New divisions will give you more vigorous growth than those left crowded and undivided.

If you have any orchids, it’s high time to move them outside. I recently repotted mine, and they are enjoying a shady spot in the garden. As a reward for my attention, each one is about to return the favor. Bloom spikes will be popping out spectacular blossoms any day now. Being just a bit ‘snooty’ they like to be above the crowd, and do well secured to fences or walls and in hanging baskets. And of course our high humidity is much to their liking.

Speaking of hanging baskets, have you tried herbs in a hanging basket? Those that ‘trail’ do especially well. Try planting some mint, oregano, marjoram, creeping thyme, and prostrate rosemary.

If Old McDonald is your alter ego – Get planting! - Beans (wax, snap, pole, bush), kohlrabi, collards (hurry), okra, corn, cucumber, southern peas (black-eye, purple hull, crowder, cream), transplants of summer squash, eggplant and tomato (buy the biggest plant you can afford – time is running out). Close your eyes and I’ll bet you can almost see that pot of collard greens and ham, corn on the cob, cucumber salad, eggplant parmesan, sliced tomatoes…………

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.