April- What's in Katie's Garden?



In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

We have made it through winter! Hooray! It is always hard for me to express just how excited I am to see the month of April arrive in my garden. Things change so quickly in the garden during April. One year my husband and I went to see some relatives in Idaho for a week. It was 5 degrees at night there. I was so starved for green that when I got home late at night I walked around the yard with a flashlight, checking on my plants. My neighbor called me and said, “There’s someone snooping around in your garden!” “It’s me! I’m home! I’m visiting my plants!” I said.

Even though the worst is over, there are still some issues to consider this month. And plants to buy!

Beware the Cold Snap
There is usually a freeze or cold weather burst around the beginning of the month. If you’ve planted tomatoes, basil, peppers, or other warm-weather vegetables, you’re going to have to protect them. I keep tarps and sheets handy in the garage so I can roll them out easily. Once the chance of cold weather is over I wash and dry them and roll them up to save for the fall. You can also use row covers and wall-o-waters to keep these plants toasty. A note for our friends gardening in the Pacific Northwest, it’s till much too early to think about the warm weather veggies. Please wait until late May or early June to plant these, and choose those with low days-to-maturity to grow.

Go Shopping!
April means Azalea Festival weekend in the town where I live. It’s kind of the unofficial kickoff to spring and everyone who isn’t eating funnel cake at the street fair is touring gardens and working in the yard. There are some odds and ends to do in the garden—particularly keeping on top of weeds that start growing like gangbusters, trying to get a foothold before the perennials fill in and shade them out—but April is primarily all about planting!

Here are some new selections I’m adding to the garden this year.

Ballerina Ruffles Hellebore

I love hellebores. They’re evergreen in our growing zone, and, as one of the first perennials to bloom in the spring, give me something to look forward to each spring. Double bloomers are stunning, and this one is no exception. I have just the spot for it!

Berry Canary Digiplexis

I grew some Digiplexis last year and they were phenomenal. I love foxglove, and I’m always sad when they’re done blooming in the spring, but Digiplexis blooms all summer. Mine got hot afternoon sun, but morning shade last year. They were planted in one of the least hospitable sections of the garden and grew really well, so they’re a winner in my book and I want more!

Fantasy Perilla

I have a weird sunlight situation in a lot of my garden. Part of the garden gets really hot mid-day sun but is dappled shade the rest of the day. Perilla seems to grow well in that area, so I’m going to try this new color combo this year.

Merry Go Round Grape Vinca

Vinca is my go-to annual. Again, because they grow well in the strange sunlight conditions of my garden. They need well-drained soil, so in the swampy, jungle-like rains we had last summer the vinca didn’t do so well. However, I am undeterred. Near the end of this month, I’ll plant it again and enjoy the easy-care color. (Vinca likes it warm. Don’t plant too early!)





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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Tired of your yard being used as a shortcut? Had enough of deer and neighborhood pets inviting themselves into your garden? Plants with prickly leaves or thorns are very useful in the landscape as barrier plants. Barberry, pyracantha, holly, yucca, cotoneaster, juniper, mahonia, and landscape roses are both ornamental and good deterrents. Planted as hedges at the perimeter of the property, they discourage anyone or anything from wandering into your yard.