April Vegetable Garden is My Favorite
The April vegetable garden is my favorite month to play in the yard and it’s been relatively bug-free thanks to recent cold snaps. My brassicas are usually covered in beetles as the weather warms, but so far, I’m the only one eating my kale, turnips, and arugula. This past winter I mulched with pine straw and learned that it was a mistake. The straw was loose enough that it provided the perfect cover for snails. I’ve been picking them off the plants and have a couple of squishing pavers placed strategically around the garden beds. The grackles swoop down and clean things up for me. They think I’m their personal chef though – they hoot at me every time I go outside.
You’ve still got a little time to start your sweet potato slips. I like growing my own because it gives me more flexibility around planting time. I found an excellent article and video from North Carolina State University Extension that discusses the various methods to create slips. (https://stem.plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu/2022/05/27/growing-sweet-potato-slips/) I usually sprout my potatoes in water, break off the slips when they reach pencil size, then plant them directly into the garden. It takes about a week for the roots to form – be sure to water daily until they do.
April Vegetable Gardening Checklist for Austin
There is a lot to do this month on your April Vegetable Gardening Checklist. Enjoy the time outside before our heat arrives.
- Fertilize corn when it is one to two feet tall toward the end of the month.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use the TexasETNetwork site to determine irrigation needs. Click on the Crop Calculator to select individual crops and their growth stage for irrigation recommendations based on actual weather data.
- Make sure to include flowers in your vegetable plot. They attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Zinnias and marigolds can still be planted from seed this month.
Seed the remaining warm-season vegetables like okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, melons, and sweet corn. Consider warm season greens like malabar spinach, lambsquarter, molokhia and vegetable amaranth.
- Direct seed your second crop of bush beans and final round of summer squash.
- Get your winter squash and pumpkin seeds direct sown. Most varieties take between 90 – 100 days to mature.
- Set out sweet potato slips toward the end of the month. Remember that sweet potato leaves are edible. They are the main summer green in my garden.
- You can still transplant eggplants and peppers this month.
- Add Thai, African Blue, or Holy basil to your vegetable beds and let them flower. 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
- Watch for aphids on tender new growth. Wash them off with water or use insecticidal soap.
- Harlequin bugs will appear on mustard, collards, kale, arugula, and other brassica crops as the temperatures warm. Rather than spraying, pull up and compost the plants since they are at the end of their harvesting season.
- 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.
- Gather oak leaves and tassels that have dropped from trees onto your driveway or patios. It will all come in handy as mulch and they are relatively free of weed seeds if gathered from hardscapes.
- Cultivate around plants to control weeds, break up crusty soil and provide aeration.
- As tomatoes grow, place stems inside of cages. It’s much easier to do when they are small and flexible.
- Try growing as much as you can vertical. I like pole teepees, pieces of woven wire fencing, or sections of cattle panels. Cucumbers, and some of the smaller vining squash and melons do well on a trellis. Bigger fruit like watermelons can be challenging but I’ve had success with pantyhose slings.
- Thin transplants and seedlings as they grow. Adequate root development and plenty of air circulation helps plants fend off disease. It’s also easier to spot pests.
- Keep your potatoes mulched or hilled with soil to protect the tubers from sunlight and to encourage the lower portion of the plants to develop tubers laterally along the stem.
- Don’t worry if your potatoes start to bloom – it doesn’t impact tuber development. I use it as a signal to gently probe for new potatoes. (Yes, I’m that impatient.)
- Hill up the soil or mulch around corn to help stabilize it and keep it from blowing over.
- Maintain mulch around your garlic and onions to preserve moisture. Make sure you are irrigating the soil and not the mulch. The bulbs are rapidly developing and need plenty of water.
- Let your cool season herbs like cilantro, dill, and parsley bolt and flower. They are a favorite pollen source for beneficial insects.
- 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.
- Keep up with harvesting all your greens. They tend to bolt with warm weather.
- Harvest the last of the snow peas. They’ll stop blooming soon.
- Green beans should be coming on fast and furious this month and you may need to pick them daily.
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.