What to plant in April?

Everything! Well, not exactly.

Oklahomans, here’s the deal-i-o. Our last average frost date is April 20, but if you wait that long to plant, summer’s nasty heat may move in and clobber your plants.  Personally, I wait until April 15 to plant most heat loving crops including beans, corn, tomato plants, peppers and eggplants outdoors. Mine are cooling their heels outside in the shade a few hours on the days over 50°F while they harden off. Watch your weather forecasts to decide when to plant based upon late freezes and such. I’m watching both News 9 and KFOR because I find they are more accurate in my area. If you started seeds indoors, set a timer to bring the little plants back inside as they harden off. That way, you won’t forget. Seedlings take work so you want them to survive.

European honeybee on the most beautiful poppy in an Asheville, NC, garden.
European honeybee on the most beautiful poppy in Christopher Mello’s Asheville, NC, garden.

As for flowers, I’ve already planted seeds for poppies, nigella (finally coming up due to Fairegarden’s advice about sowing it on top of the soil and only covering lightly with grit), Aquilegia (columbine) and delphiniums (larkspur). As the small plants get larger, I am weeding out some. I also transplanted the larkspur and Verbena bonariensis that self-sowed in the gravel. I did plant some of dahlias yesterday, and I added some sand to the soil where they will grow to enhance drainage. The dahlias grow in a protected area like the precious creatures they are. Dahlias aren’t fond of bad drainage or temperatures over 100°F.

Really, who is?

Indoors, I’ve sown a gajillion seeds this year. Okay, maybe not a gajillion, but at least a hundred-million, yes. I’ve got ornamental peppers, including ‘Black Pearl,’ and ‘Jigsaw’ for foliage color. Also, Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple,’ Celosia ‘Cramers’ Amazon’ because I saw it on Nan’s Hayefield, and it reminds me of ‘Intenz’ I grew two years ago. Those bright purple plumes attract bumblebees. Celosia is easy to start indoors from seed. C. ‘Indiana Giant’ is a big red with darker leaves. There was a time I though celosias or cockscomb were too old fashioned. However, after seeing them star in a friend’s garden in late summer, I changed my mind. They’re wonderful as flowers and foliage. Amaranths–I’m growing several. Tricolor is one, and I’m also doing a red. Usually, I just throw amaranth seeds outside, but I wanted to be more particular about planting this year, and honestly, all those little outdoor seedlings get away from me in the midst of regular garden chores. I’m doing three colors of Gomphrena globosa ‘Carmine,’ a red and ‘QIS Purple.’ I want them to dance in the wind, and I’ve found you need a lot of gomphrenas for dancing. Buying bedding plants would be too dear for my budget. I have several flats of these, and they’re getting pretty big.

Bumble bees on Celosia 'Intenz'
Bumble bees on Celosia ‘Intenz’

Flowers started indoors: Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ ‘Irish Eyes’ and ‘Prairie Sun.’I have perennial black-eyed Susans, but I want more variety. It’s fun to try new and old favorites. Speaking of, I started Spilanthes‘Lemon Drops’ from seed. I’ve grown it before. One nursery in town carries it, but the owner is elderly. I’m afraid she won’t operate her nursery much longer. Zinnia ‘Whirligig’–is one I started. Normally, I don’t start zinnias indoors, but this one is special, and I wanted to lay out bedding plants of it. Two kinds of flowering tobacco, Nicotiana alata ‘Perfume Blue’ and N. langsdorffii, green with blue stamens. The latter isn’t a thrilling specimen in some ways, but will make a great spacer and grows very tall. Verbascum phoeniceum (mullein) are a group of flowers I’ve wanted to try for a long time. They came up and are strong growers in pots. We’ll soon see how they do outside. Because I love Carol Klein, I’m also growing Cerinthe major (honeywort or blue shrimp plant.) It grew strong in containers, but it may fail from our heat. Aster ‘Duchess Apricot’ is a unique seed I found. I have a few that sprouted. We shall see. Mirabilis jalapa Marvel of Peru ‘Salmon Sunset’ caught my eye too. Won’t that look good against a dark purple alternathera? Finally, I recently started Angelica sylvestris ‘Ebony.’ It’s slow, but is now emerging. I am a big fan of plants with lime green and/or dark foliage. This one, of course, is dark. Helenium ‘Helena Red Shades’ is another flower I’m trying to grow, along with purple heliotrope.

Petunia 'Laura Bush'
Petunia ‘Laura Bush’

Because of my dear friend, Cindy from My Corner of Katy, I have ‘Laura Bush’ petunias. I grew the seed she gave me, and I will have plenty even if the nurseries don’t carry it. ‘Laura Bush’ is one of my all-time, hands-down favorite petunias next to Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum and Supertunia® Vista Silverberry. They are both splendid too.

Supertunia® Bubblegum Pink, along with purple fountain grass in the rose garden
Supertunia® Bubblegum Pink, along with purple fountain grass in P. Allen Smith’s rose garden

Some seeds haven’t been as successful. Asarina pupusii ‘Victoria Falls’ only germinated a few, but I’ve heard it is tough and likes colder weather. I’m going to put it outside in small seed starting containers and see if it likes that better. Astrantia major ‘Purple Shades’ is another. Still trying to make it happy. ‘Jester’ millet is doing okay, but so slow growing it makes me want to pull my hair. I keep giving it lots of light and am hardening it off. Will let you know how it does. I may be buying millet plants if I can find them instead.

Herbs: Italian parsley, basil, dill, etc. I already have a large rosemary, thyme and sage outside in the potager.

'Park's Whopper Improved' tomato was a determinate variety that kept me in tomatoes all summer.
‘Park’s Whopper Improved’ tomato was a determinate variety that kept me in tomatoes all summer.

Food: Tomatoes are a favorite in Oklahoma. ‘Marianna’s Peace’ was wonderful last year so I’m growing more of this large, indeterminate, pink fruit. ‘Homestead’ was another winner originally produced in the 1950s for southern gardens. It is semi-determinate. Growing it again. Trying some new tomatoes too like

‘Goldman’s Italian American’
‘Lizzano Cherry’
‘Aussie,’ Indeterminate and from Australia.
‘Cherokee Purple’ a standard heirloom for Oklahoma.
‘San Marzano Tall’
‘Vintage Wine’ has a deep chocolate red color with a green stripe.
‘Thessalonkj’ is a Greek variety with dense foliage to protect the fruit from the sun.
‘Coyote.’

I’m sure I’ll buy ‘Park’s Whopper Improved’ again from the store.

The vegetable patch at the beginning of July, 2012
The vegetable patch at the beginning of July, 2012

Peppers, there are so many, but I’m excited about sweet ‘Douce D’Espagne,’ ‘Bullnose’ and ‘Lipstick,’ among others. As for the hot peppers, I’ve started: ‘Cayenne Long Thin,’ ‘Grandpa’s Home,’ ‘Caloro,’ ‘Chile de Arbol’ and poblano.

Little Fingers eggplant. They are very, very small.
‘Little Fingers’ eggplant. They were very, very small.

There are also the eggplant trio: ‘Fengyuan Purple,’ ‘Rosa Bianca’ and ‘Jade Sweet.’ I love eggplant.

So, there you have it. These are my foliage, flower and veggie seeds started indoors. As I plant seeds outside, I’ll share the direct-sow gang. Don’t get too impatient. Wait a few more days before buying Bonnie Plants at the box store and sticking them in the ground. The Bonnie people are nice. They would tell you the same.

18 Replies to “What to plant in April?”

  1. Your garden is going to be an explosion of color this summer!! And what a harvest of veggies you will have…wow! I steer clear of Celosia, it reseeded so much in Virginia I still had seedlings coming up 10 years after I first planted them AND after the yard was flooded with salt water. They are sure bright colors……….and hardy!

  2. There are many things to plant here in April too, but not the same as yours. Our frost free date is a month away yet! I think you are right, that is the most beautiful poppy I’ve ever seen!

  3. My spouse has always been our gardener and I am afraid that I have not paid attention but if he will advise me and if my son will till our garden, I might try to plant some vegetables this year. You are blessed to be so knowledgeable.

  4. Hi Honey,

    Just checking up on YOU! We both are sowing like fiends, right. So far a gazillion seeds, but mostly sunflower varieties, tomatoes, ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glories, and gourds galore.

    This is the third time I’ve tried to leave a comment! Hope it works.

    Love,

    Sharon

  5. I’m delighted the Laura Bush petunias have done so well for you! I admire your patience with the seed starting process. I’m more of a fling ’em out there and see what happens kind of gal … ;-)*

  6. I am impressed by the breadth of your crops. I have the front window filled with pots of tomatoes, onions, basil, and parsley. Our overnight temps dip way below freezing, so I’m waiting for fairer weather. My Zone 6a is about averages and not a good match for reality.

  7. You sure have lots of babies to attend to! How exciting! I didn’t get anything planted inside this year, but there is an older couple who walk by a lot, and stop to visit. When I told them I hadn’t planted anything, they said they’d bring me some tomato plants. The next day or two, they came over with 4 plants. I can’t remember what kinds, but they were each a different kind. I was tickled.

    I gardened on the cheap last year, and it turned out that a lot of plants sowed themselves right in the tubs they had been in the previous year. I think I’ll see if they do that again this year. I also grow a number of mints and other perennials in pots.

  8. I have been looking at sone gardening books, and have been inspired to start some plants from seed – next year. I am impressed with all that you are starting from seed! Thanks for the list. Those little eggplants are so cute! And now I know why Texans don’t do well with dahlias – they don’t like 100 degree weather! (PS: my copy of The Bold and Brilliant Garden arrived today!)

  9. Easter was the first real day of spring when you could work in the garden in comfort. Pruned and pulled weeds, all of the tasks that call out the beginning of a real garden. I love that time when you bring out the plants to adapt to the real world, plant seeds outdoors, and you sit in the swing for the first time this season and you watch it all start to grow.

  10. Very exciting and fun to hear what you are doing. I cannot wait until april 15!!!!!!!! :O)

  11. WOW! It was fun to see all your choices for the upcoming year. Unfortunately I sustained some major pressure wounds this winter and will be pretty much bed bound this gardening season. So I will live vicariously through your garden and look forward to seeing another wonderful growing season through your eyes, my friend. Good luck with everything.

    Best,

    Patrick

    1. Patrick, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had some setbacks. Pressure wounds can be terrible. I’ll keep you in my prayers. As for the seeds, I went a bit mad this winter and early spring. They are all over the house. 😉

  12. Goodness, Dee, what an inspirational post! You got my gardening engine running! So many seeds, what an amazing garden show you will have, not to mention the fun of growing them yourself. Thanks for the linkage, my friend, and good luck with those Nigella. You should have them forever if they can form seedpods and mature on the plant.

    1. Oh thank you Faire! You don’t need me to start your engine running. 😀 You’re an amazing gardener and make me think about new ways of doing things. Thanks. I hope the nigellas lives here a long time.

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