April Gardening Checklist: Ferns, Lawns and More
With the help of many gardening friends I have attempted to offer on these pages some useful information to help you with your own garden. Gardening is sharing. Any corrections, comments or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information. Ferns, Lawns, Groundcovers and more are the focus of this NoteStream. Also see our NoteStreams on Flowering Plants, Fruit Trees, Edibles, and more.
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The information, dates and techniques in this blog are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades I have cared for, nurtured and observed tens of thousands of plants.
With the help of many gardening friends I have attempted to offer on these pages some useful information to help you with your own garden. Gardening is sharing. Any corrections, comments or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information.
• Some ferns, including sword ferns, chain ferns, some maidenhairs, etc., will begin waking up again this month, although most still need a bit more warmth.
• When signs of new growth are showing, begin fertilizing. Use a mild, organic fertilizer on ferns and alternate periodically with an acid version, especially in high pH soil. For most common varieties try using blood meal alternated every third feeding with Cottonseed Meal.
• As ferns begin growing new foliage consider removing old, dry or tired looking fronds all the way to their base. Some varieties like sword ferns, chain ferns, autumn ferns, rabbit-foot ferns and other rhizomatous varieties can be revived by cutting all of their fronds nearly to the soil. New growth will quickly reappear.
• Begin irrigating more regularly according to weather and the growth of the individual plants.
• Continue fertilizing mounted and containerized staghorn ferns with a mild, liquid fertilizer. Fish emulsion is excellent.
• This is a good month to divide and/or remount overgrown staghorn ferns.
Golden Strawberry Groundcover
• This and last month are the best time to plant slopes, especially large scale plantings. Erosion will be minimized since most of the rains are behind us.
• Cool season groundcovers are still growing and blooming well, enjoy the show.
• California native groundcover plants, like Ceanothus and Arctostaphyllos (Manzanita) are probably still blooming well now. This is not a good month to plant these. Wait until late this fall.
• Warm season groundcovers are waking up and growing again, possibly even setting flower buds. Feed these now with a balanced, organic granular fertilizer.
• If necessary, this is the best time of the year to perform a heavy cutting-back of warm-season varieties. Many groundcovers build up considerable thatch and loose their vigor if not cut back periodically. In general, the faster they grow the more frequently they need a firm cutting back. Fertilize after the cut-back, to insure quick recovery.
• Groundcover planting in general is easy to accomplish now. Mulch between the plants after the planting to reduce weed growth, improve soil quality and reduce irrigations.
• This is another good time to check irrigation systems on slopes. Adjust heads, check clogged lines and add to the system as necessary, before the warm weather of summer.
• This is a good month to plant new cool-season lawns from seed or sod (fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass).
• Feed all lawns this month. Cool-season grasses like fescue, ryegrass and bluegrass are still at their peak in the cool springtime weather. Warm-season grasses like bermudagrass, St. Augustine and zoysia have waken up and are growing well again. Feeding these warm-season grasses now will help them return to their deep green color.
• This is the last really good month, until fall, to plant new cool-season lawns (fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass).
• Conversely, it is the first reliable month to plant warm-season lawns (hybrid bermudagrass, St. Augustine, etc.) from sod. Most warm-season grasses do not grow from seed and are best only installed from sod.
• Remember, cool-season lawns should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the cool months than in the warm months. Keep the mower at this lower height for another month or so.
• The ornamental grasses that were cut to the ground sometime during the winter have now put on a lot of new growth.
• This a very good time to plant nearly any species of ornamental grass.
Shrubs & Vines
(See also the information under Azaleas, Camellias, Gardenias, Hydrangeas and others in Flowers and Flowering Plants)
• In general, many shrubs will be growing rather quickly now and they may want to grow too large for their space. They may even want to grow into small trees. This may be what you want, but if not they will need regular clipping to restrain them. Pruning these shrubs is best done just following their bloom cycle so as not to interrupt their flowering. For many shrubs this may be now.
• This is about the time to prune winter and spring flowering vines that have finished blooming. These include Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthemum), Hardenbergia species (Lilac Vine), Jessamine (Gelsimium species), Cat’s Claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati), Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta) and Wisteria (See above).
(See also the information under Avocados, Citrus, Deciduous Fruit Trees and Subtropical Fruits here)
• This is a good month to prune tender sub-tropical trees like Ficus, Coral Tree, Avocado, Citrus, etc.). These sub-tropical trees should not be pruned during the cool winter months. However, care must be taken not to disturb nesting birds at this season.
• Many trees may be suckering heavily now. Remove these suckers below ground by pulling them. If you cannot pull them, dig them to the point where they are attached to the tree and cut them flush with the root or trunk, leaving no “stub”.
• This is a very good time to plant most tender, subtropical trees like coral tree (Erythrina), orchid tree (Bauhinia), trumpet tree (Tabebuia) and others.
Tropicals & Subtropicals
(See also the information under Avocados, Citrus and Subtropical Fruits here))
• Most of these are still just waking from the cool months. It is still early for most of these plants. Some varieties will be showing signs of new growth on the tips or along the branches.
• Depending upon your location and the species involved, you may be able to begin some plantings.
• Most varieties can be fertilized now, but any that look completely asleep still should wait another month. Don’t be surprised if the real heat lovers, like Plumeria, Ginger, Ixora, Heliconia still have no sign of new growth.
• This is a good month to do any serious hibiscus pruning.
• Watering can usually be more frequent now, as the plants wake and begin growing again.