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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for April

April to me is a joyful month of budding spring blooms with lots of flowering trees and shrubs. The dark days of winter have given way to cool nights, mild day time temperatures, plenty of sunshine and usually plenty of showers. As they say, “April showers bring May flowers,” Easter on April 6th, reminds all of God's love for mankind and the many blessings He has bestowed upon us. The Easter season would not be complete without Easter baskets filled with colored straw, jelly beans, chocolate rabbits, peeps and other familiar candies. And here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail. All of this gives the world hope of better days ahead.

Some tasks that need to be completed now fall into 3 categories, weeding, adding fresh soil and fertilizing. Remember when we first started the garden beds, the slate so to speak was blank. Referring to the plan we devised, we added fresh garden soil, fertilizer and then either seed or the plants. The first thing we could do this month is to refurbish the soil. If you have to dig up some perennials and heal them in, I would do it. If you have sown some seed in an area of the bed, just work around it. About a 1-inch of soil will do the trick – I call it a top dressing. Next I fertilize with a commercial fertilizer 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 and work it into the soil. In June I use a time-release choice. Now plant your cool weather annuals such as petunias, begonias, geraniums and other perennials. If some perennials you wanted are not available, substitute. Make sure that the light, height, and water requirements fit that particular area of the garden. April is the proper time to fertilize bulbs that have finished blooming. Let the blooms and leaves completely die back, becoming yellow and limp. Cutting them back to the top of the bulb will insure they have been nourished for strong blooms next spring.

If you have plants in containers such as ferns, parlor palms, sago palms, then take this opportunity to repot them. Some nurseries throw away black plastic pots and upon asking, would let you carry them home free. The new pot needs to be at least 2-4 inches wider than the old one. When repotting, you will observe the roots are very tightly wound with the roots twining around the root ball. Break up this maze and let those roots out of that prison. You can even cut off about 4 inches from the bottom, which will jumpstart the roots once they have a new fresh "home". I use an outdoor table, garden shears, and a sharp knife to man handle the roots and to repot with fresh soil.


(Cuphea hyssopifolia)

I have had very good luck with this perennial in my garden. A colorful woody stemmed plant that originated in Mexico and Guatemala with mauve to light lilac-colored tiny flowers, Mexican Heather is a great addition to any flowerbed. It is very hardy and can withstand low temperatures in winter. Just mulch heavily so that the roots do not freeze. I must have over 20 plants at the farm in Dallas County, which I mulched with pine straw. A month ago, the temps got down to15 degrees for a couple of nights, and yesterday I did see shoots appearing from the roots. Drought resistant and with few pests, I use these as fillers around taller flowers such as zinnias. They are constant bloomers and carry the beds when I have had to pull out and replace other flowers. These plants look great in mass plantings or large drifts and should perform well until a killing frost. Mexican Heather can be found in nurseries and big box stores around the Montgomery area.



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