Gardening in April
While some parts of the country may be experiencing an “Indian summer” this month, there’s a definite chill in the air in the cooler, southern region of the continent. Crisp nights, foggy mornings and even a frost or two are good indications that, for most of us, winter is not far away. Even in the tropical north, the humidity has receded.
As the month progresses, the first tinges of autumnal colour will be seen on deciduous trees – leaves of brilliant reds, oranges and golds will gradually fade and drop, carpeting the ground and swirling in the wind. Autumn is a time of transition. Summer’s bountiful harvest is over but the cool season’s flowers, fruits and vegetables are yet to develop.
What to plant now:
There’s still enough warmth in the soil in the first couple of weeks of this months at least to get plants into the ground and established before cold weather sets in. See what’s looking good at your local garden centre or plant supplier. A few suggestions to get you started:
- Evergreen trees and shrubs:
Australian native plants, exotic shrubs like camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreen magnolias.
Hostas, hellebores, dianthus, pin cushion (scabiosa), gaura.
- Spring flowering bulbs:
Daffodils, jonquils, ranunculus, anemones, freesias, hyacinths, muscari and others should all be in the ground by ANZAC Day (April 25). Tulip bulbs that have been in the fridge for a few weeks can be planted from the last week of the month.
- Seasonal flowers:
In cool and temperate areas it’s a bit late to sow seeds of flowering annuals now but there’s still time to plant out seedlings of pansies, violas, bellis, calendulas, cinerarias, cornflowers, honesty, hollyhocks, Iceland poppies, nemesias, polyanthus and primulas. In warm temperate to tropical areas marigolds, impatiens, delphiniums will all do well.
- Woody and perennial herbs:
“Hard” herbs - rosemary, sage, thyme, bay laurel, oregano, mint* – may be planted now in all climates. “Soft” herbs – parsley, basil, coriander, chives, tarragon – may be grown under cover in cooler areas or outdoors in warmer climates.
*Mint should be grown in a pot to stop it becoming invasive.
- Winter and spring vegetables:
Seedlings of brassicas, broad beans, spinach, silver beet, leeks and onions in cooler regions; beetroot, brassicas, peas in warmer areas.
The vegetable patch:
There’s not a lot to harvest from the veggie patch now, although some new plantings of salad greens may be almost ready.
- The last of the pumpkins may still be clinging to their vines and there may still be some green tomatoes on late fruiting varieties. These should all be picked now and the plants removed. The tomatoes won’t ripen this late in the season, so turn them into pickles.
- Lettuce, rocket, silver beet, spinach and rhubarb planted last month may have some tender young leaves ready to pick later in April.
What to plant now:
Seedlings of winter veggies can continue this month. Your crops will get a good start before colder weather slows down growth.
In temperate to cool temperate areas, plant seedlings of:
- Silver beet
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Kale (including Tuscan kale or cavallo nero)
- Spring onion
In warm regions, sow seeds or plant seedlings of:
- Silver beet
- Soft herbs – parsley, coriander, basil
Veggie patch tips for April:
- Keep new plantings growing strongly with applications of liquid fertiliser for vegetables and herbs such as Osmocote Boost+Feed Vegetables, Tomatoes & Herbs or a certified organic fertiliser every two to three weeks.
- Water deeply at least once a week if the weather is dry – add a wetting agent to ensure moisture penetrates deep into the soil.
- Hand pull or hoe out weeds as they appear – they compete for nutrients and moisture and may also harbour pests that could attack your crops.
- Use snail and slug traps or baits to protect young seedlings.
Fruit & flower beds:
Fruits to harvest now:
There may still be some crops of late season fruits maturing. These include:
- Selected oranges
What fruit to plant:
Evergreen fruiting plants such as passionfruit vines and citrus may still be put in while the soil is still warm. It’s still too early for and new bare-root fruit trees. They are best planted in mid to late winter.
What flowers to plant:
Spring flowering bulbs:
- Muscari (grape hyacinth)
Winter and spring flowering annual seedlings:
- Antirrhinum (snapdragon)
- Aquilegia (granny’s bonnet)
- Canterbury bells (campanula)
- Iceland poppy
- Sweet William
Garden jobs for the month:
- Continue checking for fallen and/or diseased fruits. Good garden hygiene helps present disease and pest carry-over to the next growing season. Dispose of them in the household rubbish – do not put them in the compost bin!
- Cut out and dispose of galls (swellings) on citrus trees to help eradicate gall wasps.
- Check the ties on dahlias and chrysanthemums to ensure they are not cutting into stems.
- Carefully lift gladioli corms, let them air dry for a few days, then spread in a single layer in a tray. Store in a cool, dry place until next planting time.
In southern regions, this month is your last chance to patch or rejuvenate a tired lawn or install new turf before the weather becomes too cool. It’s already too late to sow a new lawn from scratch. Although the seed may germinate well, there’s not enough time for the grass to become well established and thicken up before winter.
In the warmer north of the country, new lawns may be started from seed or turf rolls. A reminder of the autumn lawn maintenance program we recommend:
- De-thatch with a garden rake to remove build-up of dead grass, especially in buffalo, kikuyu and couch lawns.
- Aerate the lawn with a garden fork or hire a coring machine suitable for home gardens.
- Top dress with Scotts Lawn Builder Organic Lawn Soil – Topdress Mix & Underlay.
- Water entire lawn area, if permitted, to settle topdress mix.
- Fertilise with Lawn Builder All Purpose Slow Release Lawn Fertiliser, Lawn Builder Buffalo, Lawn Builder Extreme Green Granular or one of the Lawn Builder hose-on equivalents.
- Worn and bare areas may be patched with instant turf.
- Keep an eye out for aphids and other insect pests, especially on herbs and vegetable and flower seedlings. Use a general garden insecticide like Defender Pyrethrum Insect Spray to control them. Don’t forget to spray the undersides of leaves too.
- Watch for the caterpillars of the White Cabbage Butterfly on cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other brassicas. Pyrethrum will assist or try a cabbage dust.
- Newly planted seedlings may be targeted by snails and slugs. Protect them with Defender Snail & Slug Pellets.