April Chores Bring May Showers (We Hope)

April is azalea month. Masses of color grouped together serving as the perfect picture backdrop for high school proms all across Western North Carolina. Azaleas and April are like June and weddings, they go together. So, before we start on this month's chores, how about a moment to savor the exploding color, and enjoy our labors of year's past. Then we can roll up our sleeves and dig in.

If you missed March's chore list, click here. You'll find it similar to April, but it addresses lawn care, too.

1. Frost Cloth

The forecast looks great, (okay it looked great when I wrote this, now you really do need the frost cloth), and we're stocking the store like mad, but play it safe, and go ahead and buy that frost cloth before even a hint of spring frost is whispered. It's like having a good snow shovel. Buy it and the snow won't come. Either way, at least you won't be hanging a sheet over those prized peonies hoping for the best. 

2. Fertilize

Flowering dogwood. North Carolina's state flower, prefers the acidity of the Holly Tone fertilizer. Be sure to fertilize trees as well as shrubs, and perennials. 

Flowering dogwood. North Carolina's state flower, prefers the acidity of the Holly Tone fertilizer. Be sure to fertilize trees as well as shrubs, and perennials. 

If you haven't fertilized those lovely azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurels, Japanese pieris, hydrangeas, camellias or hollies with Holly Tone, now is the time. A little past the time, but that's okay. Plants need food just like people need food. Fertilizing is one of the keys to healthy plants. Follow the instructions on the bag. Use Plant Tone for all your other landscape plants and Rose Tone if you love your roses.

3. Plant

Spring rains make spring planting easier, but the gardener still needs to water while plants get established.

Spring rains make spring planting easier, but the gardener still needs to water while plants get established.

Now is the time to match those mis-matched azaleas. The nursery is brimming over with every azalea, so finding the right color is easy, either to match, complement existing ones, or start a new bed. While planting, don't forget to amend the soil (do a 50-50 mix of native soil and amendment), and use BioTone for a good root starter. BioTone contains mycorrhizae, a beneficial fungus that extends the plant's roots. Be sure to root prune, removing any broken or diseased roots, and then tease the roots out to look like the spokes of a wheel before going into the ground. The first job of the roots is to anchor the plant so establishing a good root system is crucial. Watering is the second part of that, and while spring often brings showers, watering is still essential to helping roots get established. 

Check out this video with Jon Merrill on planting a tree correctly.

4. Veggies

Keep the vegetable garden producing by planting potatoes, onions, beets, chard, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Start another batch of cool season lettuces to allow for longer harvest. Here's the chart pdf form for what to plant when. 

5. Prune

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. 3000 cherry trees were given to the city in 1912 by Japan and surround the Tidal Basin, announcing spring and drawing millions of visitors.

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. 3000 cherry trees were given to the city in 1912 by Japan and surround the Tidal Basin, announcing spring and drawing millions of visitors.

Prune spring flowering shrubs like azaleas, forsythias, lilacs and weiglea after the flowers fade. Always prune out dead or damaged wood. Prune spring flowering trees like cherry trees after flowers fade, if needed. For more information on shearing and pruning, click here and here.

6. Cleanup-Pests & Weeds & Mulch

Clean up beds nearest house first and work your way out. Remove matted leaves, and cut back perennials hanging on from last year. Observe for these insect pests: azalea-lacebug, boxwood-leaf miner, euonymus-scale, hemlock and juniper-spruce mites and spray as needed. Weed beds first, then apply 2-3 inches of mulch. For information on mulching, click here.

Bluebird checking out the real estate. (Picture taken by a BB Barns customer, Becky Ewing.)

Bluebird checking out the real estate. (Picture taken by a BB Barns customer, Becky Ewing.)

7. Wildlife and Pollinators

Consider bluebird boxes in the garden, or bird feeders (yes, there are ones that are squirrel proof), because who doesn't love the startling color of the bluebird or the sound of chirping in the garden? To read more about bluebird boxes, click here. For a simple list on plants pollinators love, click here.

8. Hold off on taking those tropicals outside.

As much as we'd all love the extra space indoors, wait before you let your tropicals spend the night outdoors. Moving them out on a warm day now and bringing them back indoors at night is fine, it helps the plant adjust slowly to it's new environment. But nights temperatures need to be 55 and above for our indoor plants to camp outdoors over night. Here's a good read on how to make that move.

Now, go pull out those old prom photos, just for kicks.

Written by Cinthia Milner, OSA, Garden Coach, blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upper South Carolina, and Tennessee.