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April garden calendar for Central Florida

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April is the month when temperatures really start to heat up in Central Florida. This is also well before the typical start of our rainy season, so keep an eye on your plants and irrigate when they show signs of water stress.

Many native wildflowers are in bloom this month and it's a good time to make selections for your own wildflower garden. Look for Spiderwort, Lyre-leaf sage, Toadflax, and Venus' Looking Glass.

Cool season annuals are starting to decline, so be ready to plant some warm season varieties to take their place. If you are growing from seed, start now so seedlings are established before the hottest weather arrives. Big box stores may still offer winter annuals in full bloom, but you should avoid the temptation to buy these. Their lifespan will be very short if planted now.

Some good choices for summer flowers include ageratum, amaranthus, celosia, cosmos, gaillardia, gazania, gomphrena, New Guinea impatiens, marigold, portulaca, pentas, torenia, vinca and wax begonia. Now is also an excellent time to plant bulbs, tubers and rhizomes like caladium, canna, gladiolus and ornamental gingers.

Diversify your food choices by adding some tropical edibles to your landscape. Some delicious and healthy choices include banana, carambola, guava, papaya, pineapple, moringa and monstera.

In the vegetable garden, now is the time to plant arrowroot, beans, cantaloupe, cassava, chayote, luffa, malabar spinach, Okinawa spinach, okra, peanut, southern peas, sunchokes and sweet potato. Early in the month, you may still have time to put in transplants of early-maturing varieties of tomato, pepper, cucumber and squash. It is too late to start them from seed.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs after blooming has finished. Azaleas usually look best when allowed to grow naturally, but now is the time to do any necessary shaping. Do minor maintenance pruning on other evergreen plants to remove dead branches or wayward growths.

Replenish decomposing mulch with a fresh top-dressing of wood chips, but keep the mulch away from plant stems and tree trunks. Wood mulches add organic matter to the soil while helping retain moisture and nutrients around the root zone of your plants.

Water only as needed to prevent wilting of turf or plants. Greater intervals between irrigation encourage deep-rooted plants that are better able to survive dry periods.

When you've finished all these tasks, find a shady spot to sit and admire your work. You'll be reaping the benefits in the weeks and months to come.

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