Garden tips for April | April 1, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - April 1, 2011

Garden tips for April

It's time to plan a trek to local nurseries

by Jack McKinnon

There is something special about touring nurseries. We go to nurseries to be inspired, to see the possibilities of what we may want to do in our own gardens.

Nursery people typically have been good gardeners for many years, know the plants that will grow in our area and have lots of ideas as to how to grow them.

Here are the tips:

1. Put together a nursery tour. Get a group of friends and visit three nurseries. Car pooling and coordinating a lunch stop will be necessary. The most important goal is to have fun and learn what is going on this month.

2. When you visit a nursery, have a list. It can be overwhelming to walk into the show area of a good nursery and see the exotic and colorful displays. I often forget what I am there for while looking at specimen plants and talking with the staff. When I have a plan and have written it down, I seldom leave without getting what I want.

3. Ask questions of the staff. At most nurseries the staff carry walkie-talkies and if they cannot answer your question they will call someone who can. It is good business for them to know all the aspects of gardening from soil to fruit production, from fertilizers and compost to insect identification and controls. Feel free to ask.

4. Have your planters, beds, turf and vegetable garden ready before you bring home the plants. All too often the plants arrive in the yard and the planting project gets put off for a week or two. Try to have everything ready first.

5. Make notes and journal your trip to the nursery. Even if you are just looking, you may very well get ideas you will want to use later. Write them down when you get home.

6. Find nurseries in the telephone book, through your garden club, from friends that have extraordinary gardens, by ads in gardening magazines, and by searching the Internet.

7. If you haven't got them in yet, plant tomatoes. There are so many new varieties including exotic hybrids you have plenty to choose from. Plant beets, chard, beans (both pole and bush) carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, squash and zucchini. Plant herbs: You will need them when cooking with all those fresh vegetables you will harvest.

8. Dead head (remove the spent flowers) and then feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons when they are finished with their bloom. These are all acid-loving plants and require fertilizer specifically for them. You can get azalea/camellia/rhododendron food at the nursery. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.

9. Container plants have different requirements for food and water than those planted in the ground. Water more frequently and be careful with fertilization so you do not have salt build up. Repot container plants that are getting out of control.

10. Flowers to plant this month are tuberous begonias, dahlias, calendulas, chrysanthemums, daylilies, hostas, impatiens, jasmine, marigold and zinnias.

Good gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687 (cell), by e-mail at Visit his website at


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