April across the in South find the redbuds and dogwoods flinging their beauty with utter abandon and the bulbs lift their blooms to catch the gentle breezes and everything whispers the message of spring again. The beautiful display of early color reminds the alert gardener of the many garden activities that must be done to insure continued pleasure throughout the remainder of the year.
Lawns: Most of the grass areas of our gardens began growing during the latter part of last month and, of course, are showing a good response to the return of the favorable growing conditions. All of these grass areas want “to be a lawn” and need help from the gardener. There is a lot of time and effort between grass and lawn. Review the work suggested for the lawn last month.
In planting the new lawn the most important job is the preparation of the seed bed. The basic soil is the real foundation of a good lawn. A lawn can be grown on relatively poor soil but, of course, it is much more of a task. So the better the basic soil and the better the preparation the easier the job becomes. The ideal soil is usually hard to find – one with sufficient clay particles to give body, enough sand to provide a looseness for drainage, and enough humus to act as a binder and water holder. Throughout most of our area the addition of humus in the form of rotted manure or peat moss will help soil conditions tremendously.
In new yards there is danger of foreign materials such as brick, mortar or pieces of lumber being covered over by the builder. Those certainly will not make a favorable growing place for anything, so they should be carefully removed in preparation of the soil. One of the most important things to be done as soil is prepared for planting is to set the grades to insure proper drainage. Regardless of soil type, drainage must be taken care of to prevent water logging and silting over the sod as it develops. Areas of improper drainage will soon give serious disease problems in a lawn. The soil should be loosened to a depth of six to eight inches. After this spading or plowing it should be raked and leveled before planting.
Any major changes in soil, conditioning or drainage must be made before the lawn is planted because these jobs cannot be done once the lawn becomes established. Seeding the lawn with the correct seed for the location is important. On the average, about five pounds per 1,000 square feet of area should be sufficient for a good lawn.
If you are planting Bermuda grass be sure to specify hulled Bermuda seed for best results. The lawn may be started from sprigs or stolons and these should be planted on 12 to 18 inch centers. After planting, the area should be rolled to make certain the soil is in good contact with the seeds or sprigs and then watered thoroughly. Frequent watering will prevent young seedlings from drying out and will insure more rapid growth.
Roses: With April comes the first lush growth of the old garden favorite – the rose. Soon you will enjoy the magic splendor of those new varieties planted during February. The hybridizers give us many new ones each year. It is a pleasure just to see how they adapt to our particular area for color variations and the many qualities we look for in a rose. With this period of rapid growth be prepared to spray or dust to control the enigma of all rose growers – black spot.
This fungus disease will cause the leaves to drop. Naturally this results in a stunted or under-nourished plant and besides, who enjoys a bloom on a leafless stalk! Application of the fermate compounds at ten day intervals will control black spot. This is one case where prevention is worth many times more than any cure. There are many all purpose insecticides on the market and some very good ones that effectively control insects, both chewing and sucking, as well as the diseases most common to roses. The most pestiferous insect that preys on the new growth of roses is the aphid-either wash them off with a hard stream of water or use a contact insecticide.
A very good habit to start is to control the shape of your rose plants as you cut your blooms. If you have never entered a rose show there is no better time than this spring. Get the schedule and enter into the competitive side of growing roses. Do not overlook the joy and pleasure to be received by sharing the blooms from your garden with neighbors.
Annuais: Hardy annuals started last month should be established by now and ready to begin rapid growth. These plants need careful attention as to watering, cultivation and weeding. Nothing promotes growth quicker with these plants than loosening the soil around them to permit the free circulation of air in the soil and the warm penetrating rays of the sun. The half-hardy annuals, those that can be sown after danger of hard freezing has passed but can withstand cold temperatures, may be started now outside (alyssum, love-in-a-mist, poppies, candytuft and petunias).
Toward the end of April the tender annuals – those requiring warm temperatures may be planted outside. As the seeds will normally require from six to ten days to germinate you can easily out guess local weather conditions and plant before the date of your last killing frost. By doing this it is easy to get a head start and have the plants well acclimated and in production early.
Once again soil preparation is the important factor in planting annuals. As the seed of most of the annuals is very small the soil must be pulverized to the point that the fine seeds are in contact with the soil. Careful and shallow planting, firming of soil around seed and frequent watering until the seeds have germinated and the seedlings established themselves is necessary for success in starting those plants from seeds. Everyone has his favorite list of annuals and my favorites include petunias, marigolds, nasturtiums, morning glory, periwinkle, snapdragon, pansy, celosia, sweet peas, salvia, zinnia and torenia. If I could have only one, it would have to be the petunia – the present-day range of colors and forms is glorious.
Perennials: Nearly all of these plants should have been divided either following their bloom or when the hardy annuals were planted. If not, divide and replant them now. Delphinium divisions consisting of three crowns should be sufiicient for a healthy replant. Shasta daisies may also be divided and replanted now. The divisions need not be large as they grow quite rapidly. Try hybridizing some of the Shastas; they inter-breed easily and some interesting flower forms result.
Chrysanthemum clumps should be divided and reset. Use only the vigorous new shoots and discard the older parts of the plant. This is usually the center portion of the clump. You may also take cuttings from those tender shoots and root the new plants to be planted in their permanent location later.
There are still two very definite groups of people who debate the use of divisions over cuttings. From personal observation the mums grown from divisions, due to an earlier start, usually are much taller and need some type of stake, whereas the plants grown from cuttings are of a more uniform size. Quality of flowers and floriferousness is usually about the same.
There is danger of transmitting crown disease from old divisions if such are present in your garden. It is time to clean all of the perennial borders and treat with a fungicide to prevent the development of any disease. A thin layer of clean sand around the growing plants is a good investment in garden sanitation for perennials.
In the average garden there are many climbing type plants that need a trellis or support on which to entwine themselves. It may be only a few climbing roses, a row of sweet peas or beans in the vegetable plot or the morning glory vines. Now is a good time to check the supports and make sure they are in good repair.
There is a decided trend toward growing these vining plants into geometric forms or espalier type plants. With contemporary design these espalier plants are in style. It is interesting to see the revival of the use of these trained plants. Once they were grown as a source of fruit and were restricted in form because of the area allotted them.
It is fairly easy to train plants into patterns of design forms in the average garden. One simply needs to provide the type of support desired and then give frequent attention to see that all new growth is secured to the support as it develops. Nearly any kind of plant can be adapted to espalier techniques.
In Arkansas the southern magnolia is seen quite frequently grown in this fashion. Another interesting use of the vines is to grow them in large containers as hanging gardens. A charming effect is gained by planting morning glories in hanging containers (even second floor boxes) and allowing the vines to cascade downward rather than grow upright. This can be very decorative if moon vine is used on a terrace or patio that is in use in the evening. In doing this try using bold contrast of colors for dramatic effect – (a bright red against a pale wall, for instance).
Feeding: All shrubs need light feeding to stimulate them as they come into growth. It is especially important to feed the berry-bearing shrubs as their fruit set is dependent on available food and moisture. Perhaps I over emphasize the use of water but in our area water actually becomes the controlling factor in growing of plants.
The early flowering perennials, especially irises, need a balanced fertilizer to encourage blooming and to improve their substance and quality of bloom. The tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are all in full bloom and a light feeding of a balanced fertilizer can do no harm but the water is more essential. Azaleas and camellias throughout the area probably need a light application of aluminum or magnesium sulfate to raise the acidity of the soil. Make certain to water this material into the soil thoroughly.
For Summer Color
Begin the first plantings of gladiolus this month and continue planting at two week intervals through July. Plant some of the early, mid and late-flowering varieties for succession of bloom. Even try a few of the miniatures for arrangements. Dahlias are on the market now and a few tubers can give you many late summer flowers. My only objection to dahlias is their large size they are usually too large in scale for arranging so I prefer the dwarfs or pom poms and even seedling hybrids.