Southern Gardening - Potpourri for April
April 1, 2020 | View PDF
Reprinted from the April 2017 Alabama Gazette
As we have heard all of our lives, “April showers bring May flowers,” and hope this will ring true as I have enjoyed the low water bills from the City.
The garden chores should not be mounting if we have kept weeding on a periodic schedule; however, there are some of us who just turned our backs for a few weeks, and wake up to find the soil covered with winter weeds. Luckily the dock, and others do have shallow root systems, and take very little effort to yank them out by the roots. In fact, the weeds create such a large crown or head with just the tiniest of roots. I have weeded out a huge pile while perhaps only pulling out perhaps 20 root balls. Be careful, since you will need to locate plants that have reseeded and can easily be pulled out with the drag net of weeds. So identify these before they get swept up in your weeding frenzy.
Besides the flower garden, if we have not planted lettuce, collards, turnip greens or kale, we should do this now before it gets too hot. Lettuces are especially nice, as they grow rapidly and one eats the whole plant. There is nothing better than serving a salad grown in your garden. Somehow, the salad just tastes fresher and better. If you do spray the lettuce with insecticides, remember that some "poisons" are taken up into the leaves and washing the leaves will not be enough to keep one from getting sick. There are very good organic sprays on the market which are alternatives to insecticides. For instance, one article suggested a caffeine spray for bugs. As for animals wanting to nibble some salad greens, try spraying with a mixture of garlic and another strong smelling herb. The fight to keep every bug out of your salad greens is not that daunting a task, because after six weeks, the lettuce begins to bolt and the greens have bitten the dust.
I was reading a garden article on flowers that tolerate and thrive in alkaline soil such as we have in Montgomery also known as Gumbo Soil. What I read made me rethink on my failures of Baby's Breath, or Gypsophila, which means "lime-loving". Lime is alkaline and I have always planted Baby's breath in acid to slightly acid soil. The plant requires good drainage, needs full sun or light shade, and is perennial. They make great fillers in the garden and are great for cutting. There is a creeping variety that does tolerate acid soil. Maybe before I try a new addition to the flower garden, I should read the plant’s requirements.
Ornamental grasses can be a lovely addition to the flower bed. Fountain Grass, or Pennisetum, has become very popular and is noted for its foxtail fuzzy flowers that stand above clumps of rounded fine textured foliage. These are stunning when planted in large drifts. Most re-seed year after year, so thin periodically so as not to have a massive invasion.
Now that we should not have any more hard freezes, we need to search for and plant some hardy tropicals, such as plumbago, and hibiscus. These woody-stemmed plants have to be brought in during the coldest months, so I just keep them in pots and cut them back when the time comes. Just a couple of each lends an interesting texture with variety of colors from white, to pale blue to bright orange, red, yellow, peach and all colors in between.