Gardening is the perfect family and social activity

By Melissa Koesler

Garvin County Extension Director

Many are realizing that gardening is the perfect social distancing activity. If you have gardened for years, or are just now considering it, the benefits are plentiful. 

Gardeners have long called their work a stress reliever, providing mental and physical benefits, and there are a number of scientific studies supporting them.

The following tips for the month of April offer a great deal of information to help you get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Fruit and Nuts

•Don’t spray insecticides during fruit tree bloom, or pollination may be affected. Disease sprays can continue according to schedule and label directions. (EPP-7319)

•Control cedar-apple rust. When the orange jelly galls are visible on juniper (cedar), following a rain, begin treating apple and crabapple trees with a fungicide. (EPP-7319, EPP-7611)

•Fire blight bacterial disease can be controlled at this time. Plant disease-resistant varieties to avoid diseases. 

•Continue spray schedules for disease prone fruit and pine trees.

Tree and Shrub

•Proper watering of newly planted trees and shrubs often means the difference between success and replacement.

•Remove any winter-damaged branches or plants that have not begun to grow. Prune spring flowering plants as soon as they are finished blooming. (HLA-6404, HLA-6409)

•Control of powdery mildew disease can be done with early detection and regular treatment. Many new plant cultivars are resistant. (EPP-7617)

•Leaf spot diseases can cause premature death of foliage and reduce plant vigor. 

Flowers

•Most bedding plants, summer flowering bulbs and annual flower seeds can be planted after danger of frost. This happens around mid-April in most of Oklahoma. Hold off mulching these crops until spring rains subside and soil temperatures warm up. Warm-season annuals should not be planted until soil temperatures are in the low to mid 60s.

•Harden off transplants outside in partial protection from sun and wind prior to planting.

•Let spring flowering bulb foliage remain as long as possible before removing it.

Landscape – General

•Hummingbirds arrive in Oklahoma in early April. Get your feeders ready using 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Do not use red food coloring.

•Keep the bird feeder filled during the summer and help control insects at the same time.

•Lace bugs, aphids, spider mites, bagworms, etc. can start popping up in the landscape and garden later this month. Keep a close eye on all plants and use mechanical, cultural, and biological control options first.

•Be alert for both insect pests and predators. Some pests can be hand picked without using a pesticide. Do not spray if predators such as lady beetles are present. Spray only when there are too few predators to be effective. 

Lawn

•Warm-season grass lawns can be established beginning late April from sprigs, plugs or sod. (HLA-6419)

•Fertilizer programs can begin for warm-season grasses in April. Consider submitting a sample for a soil test to your Extension office. Testing your soil first allows you to apply the proper type and amount of fertilizer. (HLA-6420)

•Mowing of warm-season lawns can begin now (HLA-6420). Cutting height for bermuda and zoysia should be 1 to 1½ inches high, and buffalograss 1½ to 3 inches high.

•Damage from Spring Dead Spot Disease (SDS) becomes visible in bermudagrass (EPP‑7665). Perform practices that promote grass recovery. Do not spray fungicides at this time for SDS control.

•Grub damage can be visible in lawns at this time. Check for the presence of grubs before ever applying any insecticide treatments. Apply appropriate soil insecticide if white grubs are a problem (EPP-7306). Water product into soil.

Vegetables

•Wait a little longer for it to warm up before planting cucurbit crops and okra.

•Plant vegetable crops in successive plantings to ensure a steady supply of produce rather than harvesting all at once.

•Cover cucurbit crops with a floating row cover to keep out insect pests. Remove during bloom time.

•Watch for cutworm damage and add flea beetle scouting to your list of activities in the vegetable garden.