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April is a great month for planting

Gardeners enjoy April since there are so many opportunities to get things going before it gets too hot! Soil temperatures will get consistently warm this month and ready for planting vegetables, such as, Southern peas and okra. It will also mean vigorous growth for traditional favorites like tomatoes, peppers and melons.
April is also a great month for setting out annuals in landscape beds. Plant them in well prepared, weed free soil, close to a water source for best success. Prior to planting, incorporate lime, if needed, and mix fertilizer in the top two to four inches of soil. Clean up existing weeds then apply a pre-emergent herbicide containing the active ingredient trifluralin. It can control annual grasses like crabgrass and a few assorted broadleaf weeds. The herbicide can be lightly incorporated (top two inches of soil) prior to planting or watered-in after transplants are set. Two to three months of residual control can be expected.
Some easy annuals to grow successfully from seed include cosmos, celosia, marigold, sunflower and zinnia. These can be directly sown in the garden bed. Each may be cut for use in summer bouquets that will brighten your home or office. However, remember that pre-emergent herbicides safe for transplants may damage or kill the same type plants when grown from seed. Be sure to read and follow all label recommendations.
Tidy up around established perennials by removing winter weeds before they go to seed. Trim perennial plants to remove seed heads and flower stems as well as cold damaged plant parts, dead stems and leaves. Fertilize perennials when new growth begins and apply pre-emergent herbicide where appropriate. Consider raking around perennials and adding a fresh two or three inch layer of compost or mulch before summer heat arrives.
Check established perennials for signs of insects and disease. As temperatures get consistently warm, insect pests such as aphids and whitefly begin to quietly collect on the underside of leaves or on new, succulent growth. Be sure to carefully examine your perennials once or twice this month to make sure plant pests have no opportunity to get established.
Gardeners have become more enthusiastic about perennials in recent years and the market has responded. Busy folks want plants that do not have to be replanted year after year even though bloom periods for many perennials may not last as long as some of our favorite annuals.
Careful planning, proper plant selection and good bed preparation now will help insure a successful summer garden. Take time to shop around for a few new perennials to add to your landscape. And of course, let’s hope April showers bring May flowers!

By Eddie Smith