Column: The Garden Girl – Gardening Tips for the Month of April

April 6, 2014 14:00 pm · 15 comments


There is much to do in the garden during the month of April.

A gardeners work is never done….

With every ones mind on growing vegetables, people should be making their final touches on amending the soil around there veggie gardens. Remember, our native soil isn’t very giving, especially to vegetables.

Mix ingredients like chicken manure, earthworm castings, alfalfa meal and bone meal into your native soil to enrich, and make more productive. If you would like to go above and beyond, add a dose of Tomato & Vegetable food with beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae fungi directly to the soil, this will help create a living, healthy soil environment for your vegetables. Since it is early for many of the summer vegetables to set fruit, please remove the first few sets of buds from your tomatoes, peppers for the next week or two while your plant roots establish.

Seeds are an easy, economical way to plant herbs, leafy greens, carrots, beets, peas and beans. Don’t be scared of seeds. They are a very successful way to get the veggies and herbs that you want. Most people plant several basil and cilantro plants. Installing by seed will keep you in basil and cilantro all summer long. Leafy greens like various lettuces, spinach, chard and kale are better when grown by seed. It cuts down on the possibility of bitterness. When installing veggies by seed, don’t use the whole envelope of seed at once. Plant a row, they a couple of weeks later, install another row. This way you’ll be harvesting as much as you can handle, versus having too much all at once.

Weeds are a big problem in our Claycord lawns and gardens. There are many herbicide products available and most of them really work. For those that struggle with weeds in the lawn, and have tried the Weed-n-Feed type product without success, consider applying a concentrated form herbicide to use on your lawn. Monterey introduced a product that promises to kill Crabgrass and all major broadleaf weeds in the lawn, without hurting the grass. It is called Crab-E-Rad Plus. You will need a sprayer to distribute this product. As always, follow all product directions.

As our hydrangeas around town begin to leaf out, we will need to fertilize them. Feed now with an acid based fertilizer. If you have any woody stems that are growing taller than the rest of your shrub, prune down to match the rest of the shrub. Camellia shrubs will need to be fertilized too. Use the same acid based fertilizer. Camellias may need a dose of iron as well. Remember to pick up all the old camellia blossoms from beneath your shrubs. Azaleas are in full bloom right now. They will need a dose of Acid based fertilizer as soon as they are finished. Have the fertilizer handy so it can be applied in a timely fashion.

Weigela shrubs are just beginning to bloom. This is a deciduous shrub that has an exceptional long bloom. Trumpet shaped flowers of pink, red or white dot this shrub from spring through early summer. The weigela shrub belongs planted in mostly sun, along the fence where it can grow to become something fantastic, and where no one feels like the must control the growth. During the flowering period humming birds will feast on the shrub’s nectar.

The tiny blue flower on the Brunnera is thrilling shade gardens this time of year. This perennial appears delicate. One shouldn’t be judged on appearance, the Brunnera is tough as nails. Brunnera makes a great companion to Azaleas and a nice under planting for Camellias.

Keep your eyes open for slugs and snails this month. They are awake and hungry. If aphids are a problem, introduce ladybugs to your landscape. Many nurseries sell this beneficial insect. If you don’t want to wait for the beneficial insects to do their jobs, spray weekly with Neem oil. Neem oil works! Do not apply while the sun is on your plants, you’ll burn your leaves.

Now go out and get busy.

Happy Gardening!

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

photo credit: Barry Hart

1 Antler April 6, 2014 at 2:47 PM

A plant we thought had been lost due to a sprinkler-station malfunction a couple of years ago is presenting us with lovely Columbine blossoms this week. These happen to be a bright lemon yellow …… surprise!

2 Momo April 6, 2014 at 3:42 PM

I’ve always heard that if you buy ladybugs and release them into your yard they will leave because it’s not familiar to them?

3 Enfield303 April 6, 2014 at 4:52 PM


I’ve heard you should release ladybugs in the evening or at night so they don’t fly off right away. They hunker down for the night, then search for food in the morning.


We planted Colombines inthe garden one year and they lasted about two years then died off. Ever since then they’ve been growing all over the yard, especially in the gravel by my shed. Same with my Poppies. They grow everywhere but where I planted them. I guess they they prefer a hydroponic type environment.

4 Clayton Squirrel April 6, 2014 at 5:12 PM

I don’t want to jinx myself but I haven’t seen aphids on my roses this year. And I don’t use pesticides. Hmmm. I do have some unfortunate borers that make some of the buds droop over after one makes a hole at the base of the flower.

5 Shelly April 6, 2014 at 7:24 PM

I’ve released many a batch of ladybugs in the evening, and not seen hide nor hair of any of them again.

6 anon April 6, 2014 at 8:08 PM

If you take netting and place it around some plants or a large branch and put the lady bugs inside they will get used to the area and stay.

7 City Girl April 6, 2014 at 8:10 PM

My delphiniums are absolutely exquisite. The come back every year, and I don’t do a thing to them. They have beautifully survived the heavy rain fall last week. My glads are about 10 inches tall and the dahlias are about six to eight inches.

I had a huge clump of dahlia bulbs-about 50–that I dug up and broke apart. I have given away some of the bulbs and have planted many more. In all, I will have about 20 dahlias in my yards including the Mystic variety. I am definitely the queen of delphinium and dahlias. This year I bought three Columbine plants. A deep blue and white. They make a beeeeyouteeful cut flower. I’d sure like to know where I can find the yellow variety. This is my absolute favorite time of year.

Oh, and btw, for the past 2 or 3 years I have bought my soil/compost combo and mulch at Eco Mulch in Pacheco. It is high quality, and my plants/flowers thrive in it.

8 escapehatch April 6, 2014 at 8:28 PM

@Clayton Squirrel

You might have, Rose Weevils (Curculios).

See the UC Davis IPM (Integrated Pest Management) site,
Roses: Insect and Mite Pests and Beneficials, for more info.

9 Ladybug April 6, 2014 at 11:21 PM

Whoa! I’m going to need a to go box.

10 silva April 7, 2014 at 12:12 PM

My delphiniums ALWAYS die.

11 Michelle April 7, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Enfield, right you are, those are optimal conditions.

12 Antler April 7, 2014 at 1:35 PM

City Girl at #7 ……. Please call Garden Girl at R&W to check colors with her. A couple of years ago, I was shopping with a. Lafayette friend at a nursery there, and that’s where I spotted my yellow Columbine plant. Good luck!

13 Original G April 7, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Picture up top reminded me the ladybug has a life cycle and the larva stage looks nothing like a ladybug. Coworker was spraying the heck out of his artichoke plants because of aphids and six legged black an orange things crawling things, turns out he was spraying ladybug larva.

14 City Girl April 8, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Silva #10 – Oh no, no, no!! Your delphiniums might not be dying. After I cut a 2-3 foot stock of blossoms, often the plant starts to appear to die. I cut each large stalk down to about six inches above the dirt. I always get new growth and wait patiently. The lower I cut the stalks, the stronger and thicker the new stalk grows. I, also, have excellent soil that I buy at Eco Mulch.

Antler – I will keep my eye out for the yellow Columbine.

15 Silva April 11, 2014 at 3:45 PM

City Girl #14, They’ve always looked pretty dead, but they’re so beautiful, I may have to try them one more time. Thanks!

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