April Gardening Checklist: Bugs, Day-Trips 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. Bugs (both good and bad), places to visit, soil care and more are the focus of this NoteStream. Also see our NoteStreams on Flowering Plants, Fruit Trees, Edibles, and Ferns, Lawns, 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.
Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home....
Beneficial Insects and Wildlife
• Eugenia Psyllid (Trioza eugeniae) may likely already be showing signs of damage on the new growing tip of Syzygium paniculata (formerly Eugenia). Try not to spray. The beneficials will be along in a few more weeks and usually do a more than adequate job for free.
• Giant Whitefly is active again in some gardens, but just starting in others. Predators and parasites may start appearing now also, but remember, they will usually be a month or so behind the whitefly. Check immature whiteflies carefully for indications of parasitation.
Beneficial Insects and Wildlife (Cont.)
• Many beneficial insects also feed on pollen. Beneficials can be encouraged in your garden by planting a few flowers that they particularly enjoy. These include Yarrow (Achillea), Alyssum, Chamomile, White Clover, Paludosum Daisy, Cosmos, Lantana, Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus) and Centranthus (sometimes called Valerian or Jupiter’s Beard).
• Ladybugs can be released this month. This is also excellent time to release Lacewings. Two or three releases of both ladybugs and lacewings in the spring can reduce many pest populations significantly, very possibly eliminating the need for pesticides. This is your second or third release so far this year.
Beneficial Insects and Wildlife (Cont.)
• Remember that the population of natural predators and parasites always follows behind that of the pest. If predators are present in your garden, even in small numbers, they will need some time to catch up with the pest. Be patient.
• Trichogramma wasps are very effective parasites of caterpillars. If these pests are usually a problem in your garden a couple of releases of these beneficials will be worthwhile. Space the releases 30 to 45 days apart.
• Encourage larger beneficial wildlife in the garden as well. These include frogs, toads, lizards, many different birds and opossums.
Better With Butter
Pests & Diseases
(See also the information under the individual plants and Beneficial Insects)
• Snails and slugs . . .
• Release beneficial insects.
• Watch for caterpillars. Spray with BT if necessary.
• Fuchsias gall mites.
• Look for Giant Whitefly and control it now.
• Eugenia psyllid.
• Plant plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
• Rose slug.
Herb Garden Spring Bloom
Image by Pamla J. Eisenberg
Places to Visit
• Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino) and Quail Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).
• Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Clairemont. Hurry.
• Niguel Botanical Reserve, Laguna Niguel.
• Rose Hills Memorial Park.
• During the first half of the month is the big Southern California Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza. Over 75,000 people attend this indoor show with over 100 garden vendors, garden experts and displays. Free.
Places to Visit (Cont.)
• Home garden tours.
• Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, Yorba Linda.
• The “Green Scene” at The Fullerton Arboretum is one of the best garden events in southern California, and it’s right in our own backyard. Usually held the last weekend of April, this outdoor event features well over 100 plant and garden exhibitors, hard-to-find plants, garden seminars and more.
• This is a good time for a visit to our canyons and chaparral areas to observe our native plants. Good choices might include Black Star Canyon, Trabuco Canyon and the upper San Mateo Creek area.
Records, Catalogs, Books and Organizations
• Be sure to continue to make lots of entries in your garden journal now about what is blooming, what you like and what you don’t. Especially important are entries that you will make now that guide you and remind you of what you should do this fall.
Keeping Track (Cont.)
• With even more planting this month be sure to make some notes in your journal about the names and varieties of what you planted. Often, much later, the name or variety of a plant cannot be remembered. After the plant is taken out of the can save the tag and jot a note into your journal about where and when you planted it.
• Make notes now in your garden journal about which roses are performing well and which are not. Notes on disease tolerance will be useful next winter if you decide to switch to some improved varieties.
• This is the biggest month for home garden tours. If you haven’t participated in one of these before you have missed one of the most rewarding gardening experiences.
It All Starts Here
• We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil. Investing in the soil, managing the soil and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation. Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes and other invisible life. This section, possibly the most important topic of all will, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.
• A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round. This is possibly the best month of the year to add additional mulch as needed to maintain this level.
Soil Care (Cont.)
• Applied now, a thick layer of mulch will cool the root systems from the hot temperatures ahead, reduce irrigations as much as half during the summer, reduce weed growth, and improve both soil life and soil quality.
• If you have been considering inoculating your soil with beneficial mycorrhizae, this is a perfect month in which to do it. The soil temperatures are just right for quick establishment. This can be done quickly and easily in established areas by using mycorrhizae “tablets”. In moist soil, poke a hole near the plant with a ½” or ¾” rod or stick. Drop a tablet into the hole and push it in again with the stick.
Soil Care (Cont.)
• We do not suggest the use of very high analysis fertilizers in a garden, especially phosphorus. Examples of fertilizers to avoid are synthetic versions with formulations like, 10-55-10, 10-30-10, etc. We don’t even suggest the popular 15-30-15 formula. These formulations will inhibit or even destroy much of the soil life that is so vital to a healthy sustainable soil.
• We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with roses). These are very damaging to soil life.
• Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least damaging product available. Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with the invisible soil life.
Soil Care (Cont.)
• If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Leaves, clippings, kitchen produce scraps, and many other ingredients can be composted and returned to the garden. Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil. The benefits are huge in the areas of disease suppression, increasing beneficial microorganisms, improving soil structure and texture, nutrient retention and nematode suppression.
• This is definitely a planting month. Be sure that before you plant you have considered the soil and are doing all you can to improve it and protect its health.
• If your soil PH is too high (alkaline) this is one of the better months of the year to lower it. Two methods are both effective. Using a low PH mulch over the surface is probably the most effective. The other is with the incorporation of soil sulfur, an organic naturally occurring acidifying chemical.
Water & Irrigation
(See also the information under the individual plants)
• Automatic timers might be turned back on now if the weather warrants.
• Adjusting the duration and interval settings of automatic sprinkler systems as the weather dictates.