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April gardening tips in Lea County

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April gardening tips in Lea County

David Hooten/Dr. Dirt

April’s here and spring has sprung! The weather is warming up in Lea County and West Texas. Early spring flowers and flowering trees are showing their colors now. Suddenly it feels like there is a lot to do in the garden again.

April is a month to sow and grow for the new season, but there are still winter chores to do that we all seem to put off: repairs to lawn equipment, pruning that never quite got started or finished, fence repairs and outside painting projects. The onslaught of winter weeds that now demands your attention, and few other details, but hey, it is spring, and we now have daylight savings time to work even more…right.

Basic Gardening tips:

Continue to prepare seed beds for planting. Cultivate, rototill, turn the soil, and add organics to flower and vegetable beds.

Purchase seeds, roots, and dormant plants while the source is plentiful and available at local retailers.

If you did not get tools, power equipment sharpened, oiled-up and serviced, April is an excellent time to get these chores done or taken to service shops before the crowd shows up.

Summer weeds in Lea County and West Texas are showing up and will become a problem for your landscapes and gardens. The winter weeds are maturing, they are stretching upwards, blooming, setting seeds for next year’s cycle. As our local temperatures increase many of the summer weeds have sprouted. Today as I scoured the open grounds in my neighborhood. I found kochia, tumble weed, rescue grass, wild barley grass, sow lettuce, dandelion seedlings abound in the dry soils at several stops. If the April showers show up, the summer weeds will be on steroids for growth.

In the Flower Gardens

Finish removing dead wood in wisteria, trumpet, grapes, and silver lace vines. New growth will soon outpace your pruning efforts. Cut these vines back hard, as they are rampant growers.

Deadhead spring flowering plants like pansies, violas, dianthus, snapdragons to stimulate new growth and re-flower. Leave foliage on spring flowering bulbs for food input into the bulbs for next year’s bloom cycle. When they fade to yellow you can remove the dying leaves. Feed trees, shrubs, and hedges with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Work this applied fertilizer into the soil’s surface areas around these established plantings.

Roses are greedy and will respond greatly in their growth from a fertilizer application now. They are in full active growth right now. Keep watered well after fertilizer is applied.

Cut and trim ornamental grasses now as new growth is emerging and will overtake the shaggy clumps from winter and winds. Feed these native grasses with a balanced plant food and give them a good watering.

You can divide clumps of perennials for a few more weeks. When dividing clumps keep soil intact with the roots, cut into sections and not bare rooted.

Insect pests such as aphids, spider mites, crawling scales and cut worms are the major pests right now. Pine tip moths will be emerging and seeking outgrowth of new candles on all types of pine trees throughout Lea County and into West Texas. Check your plants weekly and treat them according to the label on any insecticides used.

We are transitioning in our local season. Plant new trees, shrubs and roses grown in containers now. Bare rooted plants will be harder to get established and survive the coming heat and dryness. Be sure to water your landscape plants. We have NOT had enough winter moisture. We are still in a major drought status in Southeast New Mexico and all the West Texas Counties bordering New Mexico. As of April 9, 2024, Seminole. Texas has enacted Stage 1 water restrictions running through summer until September 30th. Spring winds and low humidity will dry soil quickly throughout Lea County and West Texas.

Add organic mulches or compost to beds to freshen up, enriching your soil with new nutrients and water conserving properties. Add 4 to 6 inches of organic matter. Keep these organic mulches at 2-inches maximum on tree and shrub trunks. DO NOT make a “volcano mound” at the base of these plants. Mounding of organic mulches will allow soil-borne bacteria to attack the bases of these plants, creating rots, and allowing wood destroying bacteria into a normal healthy plant. Over time this bad gardening mistake will kill the tree or shrub. (Also note, mounded soil will do the same damage.)

Vegetable Garden

Mulch perennial vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes with compost or well-rotted manures.

Design and build raised beds now, before the growing season gets underway in Lea County and West Texas. This style of gardening is great if your soil is very rocky or caliche and makes it easy on your back, health wise.

Spring cool season vegetables are available in many stores this past week. Get them while the supplies are being stocked. I have already noticed many of the spring cool season veggies are disappearing from the garden centers. Summer season transplants are filling up the spaces…tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cukes, herbs, and much more. Just a reminder, we have NOT met the April 15th last USDA frost date. Soils temperatures have not risen to ideal germination or to transplant into for summer heat loving vegetables.

If you are growing raspberries and blackberries keep well-watered and mulched to conserve moisture around the roots. Apply manure or compost to feed the berry plants. Do NOT plant any berries in a caliche-based soil profile…plant will wither and die. Take time to create a bed for these fruiting crops and you will be rewarded. Folks, gardeners DO NOT buy and spend your hard-earned money on Blue Berries. Blue berries are a plant that needs acid-loving soil to live in and produce berries. Our soils in Lea County and into West Texas are highly alkaline (caliche, or soil mixed with any caliche) will kill the blue berry plants. Even with a raised bed, large patio pot with the top-of-the-line potting soil mix will NOT grow blueberry plants. Your home water source is an effective weedkiller for any kind of acid-soil loving plants. Local water sources average from 6.5pH to 12pH alkalinity.

There are numerous plants being brought into our local garden retail centers that are ‘acid-loving’ in the form of trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials! I plan to do a Garden Article spotlighting these plants, they will never grow here.

Other chores to do in the garden

Do NOT plant any Bermuda grass seed and sow it now, you are wasting your time, money, and energy. Our local ground temperatures are not high enough to germinate any Bermuda grass seeds. You can lay Bermuda sod along with Fescue and Buffalo grass sod now.

Fescue sod is available at garden centers now, and you can repair dead spots and/or weak/bare spots in the overall lawn. Cut, patch, and keep watered as the cool temps will get this grass established quickly.

Apply lawn fertilizers now to all grasses and water wells to boost the grasses growth.

Apply weed chemicals to kill out winter weeds and emerging new summer weeds. Read the herbicide labels and target the weeds you want to control.

Get out and mow the old winter dead grass from the Bermuda lawn, as new sprigs of green grass are emerging. Fescue, cool season grasses are well into their spring growth with weekly mowing.

Get ready to move houseplants outside, even now these plants sense a change in your homes, which are responding to the increasing light levels. Watch for insect pests and repot overgrown plants to a larger pot. Trim and cut back leggy stems. Feed with a general houseplant fertilizer. Watch nighttime temperatures to not get these plants frozen with a late frost on the patio or out in the landscape beds.

Keep feeding the wildlife that frequents your gardens and patios. Scrub and clean feeders and water baths frequently. The Hummingbirds have arrived back at Lea County local environments, clean feeders, and hang them up without any RED food coloring in the sugar water and many of the Hummers are migrating through our region heading to the northern states and Canada.

Keep a journal, track what you have planted and sown out. Keep notes on plants, what did great and what bombed out in your gardens.

Get out and plant something, make your home even more beautiful.


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