Warming Up for Summer

This month is a time of transition in the garden

The slow-growing, long-lived sapodilla tree produces an edible fruit
The slow-growing, long-lived sapodilla tree produces an edible fruit.

April is here! After the unseasonably wet winter we have had, I am just glad for some warmth with the rain. These next two months, I am going to do as much as I can before hurricane season sets off the sporadic flurries of activity that cause my chickens to think I am one of them. On my list of things to do this month are to install three tropical fruit trees, change out vegetable beds, and check my house perimeter for possible points of concern for insect entry. I am going to be a very busy bee doing it all Florida-Friendly. 

National Arbor Day will be celebrated on the 24th. I will be planting an avocado tree and two sapodillas along the western line of my landscape. All this warm weather we are having will help them feel less upset about being forced out of their pots and into their new, sandy beds. The key to installing woody plants is to make sure their necks are above the soil line just as they were in the pots. I dig holes that are slightly shallower than the pots they are in. Then I backfill each hole in a way that makes the root ball look like the hole in a donut. Careful attention to making a little berm around my plant and adding mulch to make watering easy will finish off this task nicely. 

Spring turnover in my vegetable garden is very simple. I am not fond of most vegetable crops we grow easily in summer, so I rotate using herbs and flowering things. Summer preparation starts in the middle of spring. The new consistent warmth of April means I must relinquish cool-season crops. The broccoli, kale, lettuce mix, radish, and fall-planted herbs are ready to be harvested for the last time. They will be replaced with a new batch of basil, chives, sage, dill, and thyme. 

This month, cool-weather vegetables are replaced with herbs such as lemon balm
This month, cool-weather vegetables are replaced with herbs such as lemon balm.

The tomatoes and peppers are still in full swing, and I will keep them until the middle of May, when I replace them with string beans—the only edible things I like. The pots that had cucumbers and lettuce will be emptied completely and refilled with lemon balm, parsley, and coriander. 

Everything will receive a generous helping of my summer magic seed mix: a blend of marigold, sunflower, and zinnia seeds. These darling flowers add low-maintenance beauty to my landscape through the harshest days of summer and will encourage beneficial insects to remain. 

The mosquitoes have made themselves known, reminding me to check for containers with standing water. I walk around my house looking for the other opportunities insects might be able to capitalize on. I look for fire ant mounds and wasp nests that need to be treated. Cockroaches and flies are not bothersome unless they leave their work to come inside the house. Of course, the ever-present spiders, which are not really insects, also receive the royal treatment from me (think Mary, Queen of Scots). Try to identify the crawling creeping critter before killing it; many insects can be found in a healthy, diverse landscape, and most of them are there to help in some way. 

String beans are a favorite summer edible
String beans are a favorite summer edible.

April in Vero Beach is a wonderful month to transition into cooler, looser clothing and remember the bliss of ice-cold lemonade on the back porch with a few friends. April in Vero Beach is warm, but not too warm—just warm enough for the faint scent of basil from a nearby bed and the realization that you have some beautiful Campari tomatoes to bring a huge smile to your face. April will not last forever, so soak this middling month up. May is on her way, bringing with her the promise of summer in the Sunshine State. Let there be heat!

Nickie Munroe is an environmental horticulture agent with the University of Florida’s IFAS Indian River County Extension. 

Facebook Comments