Rohde’s April Organic Gardening Calendar
We are in USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 8a with an annual minimum temperature of 15 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and in Texas AgriLife Extension District 4 (East Region) - North (Dallas).
Income Taxes are due April 15th.
National Arbor Day and Texas Arbor Day is celebrated each year on the last Friday in April, April 30th. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in 1872, Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and tree care. Arbor Day celebrations vary from state to state depending on the best time to plant trees for the particular climate, but Texas follows the National Day.
First Day of Summer or Summer solstice begins on June 21, 2010 at 6:28 am CDT (Central Daylight Savings Time).
The first day of the summer season is the day of the year when the Sun is farthest north or highest in the sky in the northern hemisphere. The sun is not directly overhead, but will rise higher in the sky as you move south until you reach the Tropic of Cancer, currently at 23º 26_ 17_ north of the Equator, which is where the sun is directly overhead. This is also called the Summer Solstice. Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning, "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.
The latest (March 4, 2010) NOAA ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) advisory and predictions says we had a moderate-to-strong El Niño continuing during February 2010. Most of the climate models also show a weakening to “ENSO neutral conditions” (Normal conditions, what ever that is) near summer, May-June-July time period. However, several models suggest the potential of continued weak El Niño conditions through 2010, while others predict the development of La Niña conditions later in the year. It looks like the NOAA weather forecast is good for about three months out, and then it’s a wild guess. Anyway, for the next few months, above-average precipitation should be present. This can allow you, or require you, to plant some vegetables a little later than usually recommended. Visit the climate prediction center for more information
It looks like I said, “The last spring frost or freeze is the middle of June” in last month’s calendar. I hope most of you saw this as a screw-up. Those who didn’t, it was. Middle of March was the average last spring freeze date. Anyway, we can still have a freeze during April too, so don’t drop your guard. Plant covers can give you four degrees or more of freeze protection. Guess what? We have them.
Vegetables and Annual Fruits
April is the month where you can finish planting everything else that wasn’t planted in February and March. While most can be planted in May, and even with the El Niño weather pattern calling for cooler, wetter months ahead, you may still get a better, longer harvest by planting this month. Most every vegetable suggested for planting this month likes a soil temperature of at least 60 to 75 degrees F. If it’s too cool, the seeds and transplants will not grow well and could be prone to disease. Four days ago I was getting 50 to 55 degrees in the morning four inches down. Now I’m getting 60 to 65 degrees. So the soil is warming up quickly.
Soil Temperatures for Seed Germination Sources
So how do you test your soil temperature, and how did I do it? One method I found on the internet was rather involved for myself (i.e. too much work) but it referenced a better way at this Oregon State University website. You can use special soil thermometers, Rohde’s has compost thermometers that will serve dual functions, but you can also use that collection of rectal thermometers you (probably?) don’t use anymore since the kids are all grown up. Poke a hole about the size of the thermometer you’re using with a big nail, small stick, dowel, or whatever, into the ground in your garden. Go down two inches for cool season plants and seeds, and four inches for warm season transplants. Leave the thermometer in the hole for a minute or two, just as you would with it stuck up your … well, you know. If you have a digital or instant read, wait for the reading to stabilize. Do this same time of day, midday or evening after work, are better, for three to four days to get an average. I myself just wondered out when I thought about it and stuck my digital meat thermometer into the muddy soil in a few different places. Someone questioned the minimum range of the thermometer at the store awhile back, but looking at it now, it ranges from –40 degrees F to +302 degrees F. This covers temperatures most every seed would want to germinate in and temperatures I won’t be outside testing my dirt. It also measures in centigrade for further confusion. It has a four inch probe so I stick it either half way or all the way. It may need direct ground contact to function rather than just reading the ambient air temp of the hole, but it’s good enough for me.
While looking up soil temperatures on the Internet, I found an article on soil temperatures for weed seeds to germinate. With the high cost of Corn Gluten Meal, timing the application is important. Upon further searching, lawn weeds start to germinate at 55 degrees F. End of February through March is the normal recommended time to apply Corn Gluten Meal in the spring, and it appears March is when the soil normally reaches 55 degrees. Other weeds will germinate at warmer temperatures. Checking the soil temperature yourself will allow you to optimize your application. FYI, when you query “soil temp for weed germination”, you will find that Marijuana needs at least 70 to 75 degrees F soil temp to get a good crop. Try “lawn weeds” next time.
Here is an interesting non-organic web site for weeds with germination info.
What to Plant When
You can still plant Rutabaga, Collards, and Mustard Green seeds, but hurry.
During the first half of the month, plant transplants for tomatoes, and seeds for pumpkins, lima beans, snap pole beans, tomatillos.
During the last half of the month, plant sweet potatoes.
Any time during the month, plant seeds and transplants for radish pinto beans, snap bush beans, bush beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, peppers (hot and not), southern peas (black-eye), cantaloupes and other melons, eggplant, and okra.
These planting times seem rather specific. Why’s this? Each plant has a minimum and maximum soil temperature in which the seeds can germinate. There is also an optimum or best temperature for maximum germination, and an optimum temperature range for acceptable germination. Also some plants need, after germination, a certain length of day or number of days of a minimum or maximum temperature or number of days of sunlight, or some combination of these conditions to mature, flower, fruit, or die. All of this need to be considered in determining what plant can be planted when and where. Doing this is what Aggies are for.
This information on when to plant what comes from Texas A&M University (TAMU) AgriLife Extension Services’ web sites. My recommendations come from a compilation of five slightly different charts, all covering the North Central Texas area from Tyler to Ft. Worth. I’ve tried to focus on the Dallas area.
South of the Metroplex (i.e. in the Corsicana - Waxahachie area), you can plant five days earlier in the spring. North of the Metroplex (i.e. in the Wichita Falls area and along the Red River), spring planting should be five days later than the dates shown.
These conditions change with the weather too, so these dates are not set in stone.
Vegetable Planting Dates for Tyler, Texas Area
Vegetable Planting Dates for Collin County
Vegetable Planting Dates for North Central Texas
Vegetable Planting Dates for Tarrant County
Spring Planting Guide for Vegetable Crops for All of Texas
Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide PDF File
Recommended Vegetable Cultivars for North Central Texas
Fertilize your seed starts and transplants each week for three weeks or so, with Green Sense Foliar Juice to get them started. This product contains Manure tea, fish solubles, kelp extract, molasses, and magnesium sulfate (epsom salts). Everything a growing young plant needs in a quickly usable form.
Add Green Sense Worm Castings, Green Sense Vegetable and Flower food or Green Sense Rose food to the holes and soil when you plant. Green Sense All Purpose Lawn and Garden fertilizer isn’t a bad choice either. Side dress plants each month thereafter.
Now would be a very good time to incorporate dry molasses and humate to beds and lawn to encourage a strong soil microbe population in the cool soil. If you need to apply Greensand now is the best time to do so. Greensand is an amendment and application is determined by soil tests.
Greensand is an ancient seabed sediment with deposits of dark greenish grains of glauconite (an iron potassium silicate), usually mixed with clay or sand. It loosens clay soils and increases the water holding capability of the sand and clay. It’s a good source of iron (hydrated silicate of iron, about 19-20% iron oxide), a large amount of potassium (about 5-7% K/potash), and other trace minerals (as many as 30), including about 2% magnesium, and 2% phosphorous (P) in Texas Greensand.
For other fertilizing considerations, Rohde’s carries Alfalfa Meal in 50 pound bags. Alfalfa in is a nutritious forage grass used for animal feed. It’s a good organic fertilizer by itself, but its fame is that it contains triaconatol, a fatty acid that is a potent stimulant of plant growth. It is included in Green Sense Rose Food. Rohde’s also carries Cotton Seed Meal in 5 pound and 50 pound bags, which is an excellent source of slow release organic nitrogen, the main nutrient in our black clay soil that is usually lacking.
Green Sense Kelp Extract contains a large number of trace minerals plus growth-promoting hormones called auxins, gibberellins and cytokinins which work as potent rooting hormones for soaking or drenching new transplants from three inch herbs to 65 gallon trees. Kelp helps improve seed germination, helps increase storage life of fruits and vegetables, helps strengthen frost resistance in hardy plants and helps build resistance to insects and fungus diseases.
Most warm season herbs like the warmer nights of around 50 degrees F or greater we should have toward the end of the month, but watch for freezes. Be ready to cover your plants if it does freeze. Like most perennial transplants, you can plant perennial herb anytime. Some herbs also do well in pots and mixed in with flowers and vegetables.
We carry over 130 varieties of herbs throughout the spring, summer, and fall. While all are not available at any one time, here are some herbs to consider now:
Anise: Annual. Plant in spring. Flowers in three months. Harvest seeds a month later.
Basil (full sun): Use in all tomato dishes
Carraway: Biennial. The first year it grows to less than 12 inches and grows a carrot like edible taproot. The second year it grows up to two feet and forms the flower heads that produce seeds.
Chamomile: Daisy like annual. Famous for the dried flower tea to calm the nerves to promote sleep.
Chives: onion and garlic. Cool weather but will grow it the summer.
Coriander/cilantro (full sun)
Dill (full sun): Short-lived perennial. Fed on by the large Black Swallowtail butterfly larva, Papilio polyxenes, along with other species in the carrot family, Apiaceae.
Lemon Balm: Perennial in mint family. Can be grown as either cool or warm. Leaf tea used as a calming agent.
Lemongrass (full sun)
Marjoram, Sweet: Perennial. A woody cousin of Oregano with a more delicate, sweet flavor
Mints (partial shade)
Oregano: Perennial in mint family. Name for several different plants. Two most popular are the Italian and the Mexican Oregano.
Rosemary (full sun to partial shade)
Sage (full sun): Small short lived, two to six years, perennial evergreen shrub.
Salad Burnet: Grows best in the cool weather but it will survive most summers.
Scented Geranium (full sun to partial shade)
Tarragon (partial shade)
Texas Marigold Mint (full sun to partial shade)
Thyme (dapple sun) does better in summer if started in fall to establish the roots.
Trim back dead parts of your perennial herbs like rosemary and lavender.
Plant warm-season annual flowers. Common ones good in Dallas include:
If you’re using annual transplants, small plants without flowers may get established quicker. Pinch off buds and flowers if it has them.
You can cut off old flowers to try to get annuals to flower longer.
Plant summer- and fall-flowering perennials.
Transplants can be planted now also, but protect from freezes.
Most wildflower seeds are sown in the fall.
Fertilize Azaleas when they finish blooming.
Roses need more fertilizer than most flowers so fertilize every four to six weeks until fall.
See "Vegetable Fertilizing” above.
Pinch tips of new shoots of tall, lanky plants to encourage side branches to give a bushier plant: Chrysanthemums, fall asters, coleus, and phlox.
Cut out old dead foliage of fall blooming bulbs and perennials when new growth begins so you can see what’s dead. Divide if necessary.
Watch for snails, slugs, and pillbugs on hostas, begonias and other tender plants. Treat with baits, traps, Sluggo, copper strips around valuable plants or pots. Garlic-pepper tea spray and pine needle mulch on hostas may repel slugs and snails.
Ornamental Grasses transplants can still be planted. Spring planting is better than fall as it allows for the roots to develop before winter giving the grass better cold hardiness. The majority prefers WELL-drained soils in a sunny location.
Cut back dead tops on established grasses to short clumps as new growth starts.
Divide big clumps up every three years or so to keep them healthier and looking better. Usually the grass will start to grow around the edges and not in the middle leaving a dead spot. Last month I mentioned doing this while the grass is still dormant like you would most plants, but some sources suggest dividing just as the grass breaks dormancy and starts greening or even while they are actively growing. Regardless, do so by spring to give the grass roots time to recover before the extremes of the coming summer and winter.
Divide fall-blooming bulbs if needed.
Plant gladiolus and caladium bulbs. Soak overnight in a light solution of Green Sense Fish Solubles or Green Sense Kelp Extract before planting.
Keep planting gladiolus every two weeks through May to lengthen the flowering period of the beds.
Mix some Earthworm Castings and/or soft rock phosphate in the bottoms of the holes when planting bulbs.
Trees, Shrubs and Vines
Plant spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines now while you can see them blooming at Rohde’s.
Fruit trees, pecans, berries, and grapes are also available at Rohde’s.
While fall and winter were better to plant most trees and shrubs, you can still do so now. You just want to get them in the ground as soon as possible to allow the roots to get established before the stress of summer comes. You will have to make sure they don’t get dry or over watered. Best to do by hand. Mulch well.
Choose plants in containers. It’s too late for bare rooted plants. Smaller container plants can get established faster and grow faster than larger balled and burlapped plants too.
Exception is spring flowering trees, shrubs, and vines like Indian hawthorn, mountain laurel, forsythia, hydrangeas, quince, azaleas, camellias, spirea, flowering or ornamental fruit trees, wisteria, weigela, rose vines. Prune after they bloom if needed.
Don’t prune Oaks trees that are susceptible to Oak Decline disease unless there is snow or storm damage. The insect disease carrier, the Sap Beetle, will be active. This is the one time you should use a pruning wound sealer or paint. We sell Green Sense Tree Goop for this purpose. Paint any lawn mower or trimmer damage also.
If you haven’t fertilize yet, do so now with Green Sense All Purpose Lawn & Garden Fertilizer
Start fertilizing your garden, flowerbeds, and potted plants once a month with seed meals and rock powders and/or Green Sense Vegetable & Flower, or Rose food.
If you are growing normal hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses, you also need to begin spraying for blackspot, aphids, and thrips or they will be defoliate. Better to rip them out and replaced with “Earthkind” roses or antiques roses. Earthkind roses are selected for carefree growing, and antique roses are usually more resistant to pest and disease also since they have survived so long. Rohde’s has new rose plants in now. Howard Garrett has an Organic Rose Program you can follow to ensure the best care of your roses.
If you live in sandy soils or a “sporty” gardener in black clay, and are growing camellias and azaleas, fertilize after they bloom.
If you have cultured pecan or other nut trees and/or fruit trees, we recommend you follow Howard Garrett’s Organic Fruit and Pecan Tree Program. It mainly revolves around the holistic approach of most of the organic program in establishing the best growing condition and health of the plants so they can ward off problems and disease before they start. It’s easier to prevent than cure.
Lawn, Turf Grasses and Ground Cover
You can start laying sod or plugs, or sow grass seed now. Ideal time is middle of April to the end of the month when it gets above 70 degrees at night and in the 80’s during the day, but first of month is OK.
Fertilize now if you haven’t done so yet. Fertilize again every three months.
You can also apply dry molasses and Green Sense Humate to jump start the life in your soil, and get your lawn going a little faster to compete with those annual weeds.
Greensand & Humate will help keep the grass green and prevent chlorosis.
Spread 1/2 inch layer of compost to poorly growing parts of the lawn.
It’s probable too late for corn gluten meal to control weeds. Most cool season weeds are established, and many warm season weeds have germinated. Close mowing, not scalping, will help eliminate many of them, particularly as it warms up, and the lawn grass comes in. So mowing even a couple of times a week may be beneficial. Collect clippings and compost them will lessen weed seed dispersal.
Trim or mow groundcover beds before spring growth begins. This will even them up and clean them up. Remove dead and damaged parts or plants and replace.
Pests, Disease and Weeds
It’s may be too cold for Green Sense 8% Vinegar to work it’s best on weeds, but used on a warm day with pulling and mowing can control them until the lawn comes in.
Watch out for lawn fungal problems with the wet weather we are having. We are still in an El Niño weather pattern with a cooler and wetter spring forecast. Ideal for lawn fungus. Consider a preventive program with Rohde’s aerating your lawn and treating it with corn meal and or Actinovate. Actinovate is a bacteria (Streptomyces lydicus strain WYEC 108) that protects lawn roots from a wide range of soil borne diseases and root decay fungi. Along with a soil test and proper fertilizing, this will give you the best control over lawn fungus problems. Remember, you will have the fungus infection long before you see it, and it will more difficult to control.
Consider applying Rohde’s beneficial nematodes now, as fleas, ants, termites, and other soil pest are becoming active.
Divide ground cover if needed.
General Pests and Diseases
Rohde’s carriers the full complement of organic pest and disease controls, for both inside and out. Stop by and see.
A wet cool spring can promote ants, slugs, pillbugs, aphids, snails, slugs, pillbugs, mosquitoes, turf fungi, tomato/potato blight, black spot, powdery mildew, and other insects that like the abundant tender lush foliage.
These same conditions that benefits plant fungus can also benefit disease fungus of insects and their eggs. This goes for good insects and bad. Same with a late freeze. Newly hatched insects could suffer, both good and bad.
Results may be that predatory insect populations will be slowed down while pest insects would increase.
For slugs, use ‘Sluggo” bait. We also have copper tape for raised beds and special plants. Also use traps as no one treatment works as well as several different kinds.
See lawn section for soil-borne fungi.
For tomato blight, add corn meal and compost to the soil, mulch good, rotate planting beds, space plants farther apart for good air circulation, use tomato cages to keep branches off the ground. Try Plant Wash to remove spores.
For other foliage fungal problems like black spot and powdery mildew, we have plant oils, potassium bicarbonate, Serenade, copper sprays, dusting sulfur, Plant Wash.
Isolated cases of aphids can be treated with a strong blast of water, Green Sense Citrus Oil, one of our other selections of plant oils, insecticidal soap, and/or release of ladybugs into the garden. We have these too.
Along with the ladybugs, we also carry green lacewings, and predatory wasp to help control of aphids, spider mites, thrips, caterpillars and other pests.
We have Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis products for control caterpillars.
Garlic sprays will keep mosquitoes away.
Spider mites and grasshoppers like hot dry conditions and hopefully will not be a problem, at least right now.
Grubs are not affected by the cool wet spring, but are not a problem now anyway. They are not eating anything. They are turning into june bugs that will come out later in the summer to mate and lay eggs. The newly hatched grubs are the grass root eaters in the late summer and fall.
Other Things to Do this Month
A killing freeze is possible anytime this month. Be prepared to cover new plants.
Keep moving winter sheltered house plants and tender plants outside. Put in shade first and increase sun a few hours each week.
Add mulch and/or compost to bare or thin ground.
Add compost to beds/gardens at least, and to trees, bushes, and the lawn, if possible, to enrich the soil.
Have landscape and garden soil tested now to know how to prepare your gardens and lawns for the spring. Rohde’s recommends “Texas Plant & Soil Lab” at 5115 West Monte Cristo Road, Edinburg, Texas 78541-8852, 956-383-0739. They can give you organic recommendations.
Most of this calendar is designed for Dallas, Tx in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a, with a predominant soil type of blackland prairie clay.
Life Without Television
I have several friends who love comparing episodes of CSI. Let’s see there is CSI New York, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, Russia, Europe and who knows what else. They talk about the Olympics, baseball, tennis and the all-exciting sport of … GOLF!
I have never watched much TV, I liked CSI Las Vegas when it first began, but quickly gave it up as I got depressed as all the prettiest girls in Sin City were killed off one by one. I know it’s silly of me to believe that if I ever get back to Nevada, none of the pretty girls will be left for me to admire.
Tennis was fun to watch, but as the women, players, began screeching at the top of their lungs after each serve, return, overhead slam or even during drop shots I would start thinking about CSI episodes and imagined that there were either being murdered or coming into contact with a rather large spider.
And then there is GOLF!!!
Who the heck has the time to watch six hours of the most boring game in the world?
But, I stand corrected as many of my friends admit that they do not sit in front of the boob tube to watch golf. It is for the white noise, the soft-spoken announcer who calmly, but very excitedly, gives a stroke-by-stroke analysis of every movement a player makes.
It is that quiet voice, the whisper that attracts many of my friends to watch GOLF on TV.
Yes, that calming voice has one calming effect on most of the people with whom I have talked to about GOLF on TV. And this voice puts them to sleep.
On my recent trip to the Middle East, there was one guy on our tour that would go to his room and watch TV once we arrived at our hotels. WHAT?
I guess to some television is soothing, addicting or, or what?
I have always been a reader. In third grade I had more body parts of the worm book then any other in the class. I had so many segments that my teacher accused me of not reading those books and began quizzing me. After three books she quit.
I have read just about every subject there is except those involving math, algebra, nuclear fusion and stuff that most humans do not and will never understand.
I have found that reading brings me great joy and makes me more “smart”. Many conversations with different people have given me just a little bit of credence as I might know a little bit of this or that information.
Of course reading is not my only form of entertainment. On days that I was not playing tennis I started walking the Katy Trail last year and enjoyed the atmosphere and, of course, the people watching. At first I would come back from my walks exhausted, after a week I started increasing the distance and within a short while I could walk from Knox St all the way to the American Airlines Center and back in a short time. I was sleeping great at night, but after a while I just was not getting tired enough after my walks to sleep through the night.
I changed my routine and included Pilates and swimming. Now my workout is diverse and lots of fun.
Monday I start with weights, then a Pilates class, and then I swim for about 30 minutes.
Tuesday is my do what I please day and I change it around constantly. I may play tennis at The Village or go rock climbing at Exposure in Addison. Very rarely do I just hang out and do nothing.
Wednesdays I work out for thirty minutes and then do cardio tennis, which means run like hell, try to hit the ball and run back to place and get ready for the next ball.
Thursday’s is a repeat of Monday. Friday is a day of rest. Saturday and Sunday are “tennis only” days.
I sleep well most nights, but if I wake up in the middle of the night I always have a book next to me. I just stared reading “Life Is So Good”, by George Dawson, a grandson of a slave who learns how to read at a late, late age. I am only about 50 pages into the book, but have enjoyed reading it so far.
So why have I taken up your time to tell you about me lifestyle???
Just last week I was reading the Dallas Morning News and came across an article about the expansion of the US. Not the country but the citizens. This article was about a European furniture manufacture that was specializing in oversized chairs to accommodate oversized Americans.
I found it difficult at first to get off of my chair and start walking, but I was given an option. Treat my after divorce anxiety with medication or exercise.
I did not want to pop pills so I opted for the exercise with pleasant results. I no longer become anxious, I sleep well and because I exercise I have also changed my eating habits to a less fat diet and more healthy foods. I cannot remember the last time I ate a hamburger, French fry combo. I cannot remember the last time I have eaten a hamburger at any restaurant. PERIOD!!!
Many of my customers come in and talk about their active lives. They volunteer at art show, hospitals, libraries and community events. Of course, they work in the garden and some go as far as working in other gardens, such as their church, their daughters’ schools, or their neighborhood entrance.
I know several people who volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or other charities that are very labor intensive.
All of the people above are, in my opinion, healthier then I am for the simple act of kindness that they effortlessly share. But, they are also physically healthy because of the time spent active rather then sitting in front of a television.
There is so much that one can do in the garden at this time of the year. Mowing, weeding, and turning beds are a great form of exercise. Adding compost and mulch to increase fertility and retain moisture as well as insulating plants roots as we go from warm days to cool nights.
Spend time with your kids, make outdoor gardening a habit, a fun experience. Get them involved with vegetable gardens allowing them to experience every moment. Start with bed preparation, seed selection and germination.
Most kids love the computer and have a hard time getting away from it and would love a an excuse to use the computer, some would stay on for ever. As parents we would say that they are on way too much.
But… how much is too much and what can be done to persuade a child to get off their ergonomic chair? Lure them outside, into the garden. Have him/her look at a diseased plant or weird insect.
Ask him/her to go back to the computer and Google the disease and its cause. Have them search the cure, same thing for any insects. What causes the insect to be on that specific plant? Is it predation of another insect or food from the plant?
Last night, March 29th, as I drove home after a new exercise routine Kettle Bell I saw a beautiful moon rising above the treetops over White Rock Lake and my new neighborhood Forest Hills. I had to stop and get out of my car. I had to feel the cool crisp breeze as I walked eastward. Before I knew it, the moon was fully visible, the sun had disappeared and I was at least a mile away from my car. The beauty of the evening, the walk, and enjoying my surroundings was something much more valuable to take in than any TV show.