The April Vegetable Garden is the Best!
April is the most glorious month for a vegetable gardener. Even if late March freezes have flattened your plantings, April is the month where everything aligns to thrive. I’m especially enjoying the bluebonnets growing in amongst my vegetable beds, my continuing harvest of pea shoots and spinach, and the (finally) quickly growing potato plants.
Here is the checklist for the April vegetable garden:
- Fertilize corn when it is one to two feet tall.
- Use a water-soluble fertilizer on tomatoes every 2-3 weeks to encourage vigorous growth.
- Fertilize the rest of the vegetable garden according to your soil test. Switch to liquid fertilizer if heat and humidity arrive early.
WATER AND IRRIGATION
- Make sure you have audited your irrigation system. If you are using a drip system, confirm that all the emitters are working. If they seem to be plugged, replace the emitter or the drip line. I’ve never had much luck getting them to unplug and function properly.
- Mid-April is a good time to plant okra. Remember that it originates from Africa and wants warm temperatures in which to germinate and grow.
- Southern peas, melons, and a second crop of bush beans can all be direct seeded now that it’s warmed up. If you aren’t plagued by squash-vine borers, you might also sneak in a planting of summer squash if you haven’t already established them.
- It’s time to get your winter squash seeds planted. Most varieties take between 90 – 100 days to mature, so now is time to get them in the ground.
- Set out sweet potato slips late in the month. It may be too late to try sprouting your own, but they still should be available online or at local nurseries.
- You can still plant eggplant and pepper transplants this month.
- Add herbs and flowers to your vegetable beds. They help attract pollinators and beneficial insects.
- Mix in compost to the top layers of soil, then mulch well around your established vegetable plants. Mulch will help retain moisture, regulate soil temperatures as it starts to get hot, and over time, will turn to compost.
DISEASES/PESTS TO LOOK FOR
- Inspect tender new growth for signs of aphids. A small number can be dislodged with a strong spray of water, but a larger infestation may require insecticidal soap to get under control. Pay attention to beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings – they may take care of the problem for you without ever having to spray.
- Harlequin bugs will appear on cole crops as the temperatures warm. Rather than spraying, pull up and compost the plants since they are at the end of their harvesting season.
- Caterpillars will be out in full force this month, many of whom become beautiful butterflies. Treat only those plants that are not larval hosts to our native pollinators. You can see a list of Austin butterfly plants here.
- Sooty mold, black spot, and powdery mildew may also start to appear. Consult the Grow Green FAQ sheets for least toxic solutions.
- Watch out for fire ants, they become more active after a rain and love to move into vegetable beds.
- Harvest the last of your winter vegetables so that you can transition into warm-season plants.
- Artichokes should be ready to harvest later this month, or allow them to bloom, and enjoy the spectacular show. The first bud is always the largest; subsequent buds will be smaller but perfectly edible. I like to steam the small ones and eat whole (lots of fiber!)
- Never let weeds go to seed – those seeds will haunt you for years. Pull or hoe young weeds and add them to the compost pile.
- Hill up the soil or mulch around potatoes so that the developing tubers are not exposed to sunlight. Do the same with corn to help stabilize it and keep it from blowing over.
- Take inventory of your pesticides and liquid amendments. Most of these products need to be stored at temperatures below 90° F. Make note and use up what you safely can if summer heat is going to be an issue in your shed or garage.
- Let your cool season herbs like cilantro, dill, and parsley bolt and flower. They are a favorite pollen source for beneficial insects.
- Consider growing vining crops on a trellis. You can bend over cattle panel fencing to form a tunnel or use pole teepees to direct plants off the ground. It’s great for saving space and is a real conversation starter to see melons or cucumbers hanging above ground.
About Sheryl Williams
Sheryl Williams has been a Travis County Master Gardener since 2010 and currently works as the Horticulture Program Assistant at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Travis County. She was introduced to gardening by her mom and grandma and has been an avid vegetable gardener most of her life. Sheryl believes that there is nothing more satisfying than growing and preparing your own food. She likes gardening in Austin year round and concedes that means pulling weeds every day. She practices organic gardening principles and enjoys the challenge of outsmarting garden pests. Occasionally she loses these battles, but doesn’t mind sharing a good meal.