Ask any gardener; April ranks among the busiest months outdoors. Plants seem to grow overnight. But potential pests also are very active, so look out for sudden invasions.
▪ Aphids gravitate to young, juicy, green growth such as tasty flower buds or tender new leaves. (They especially like roses, which are growing rapidly right now.) Knock soft-bodied aphids off plants with water from a spray bottle; they can’t survive the fall. Plain water will work, or add a teaspoon of liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s).
▪ Watch out for slugs and snails. Spring brings them out in force. An hour after nightfall, check your tender plants with a flashlight and hand-pick snails and slugs off foliage.
▪ To deter snails, sprinkle wood ash or crushed eggshells around plants. Or try this trick: Put boards (such as two 2-by-4s or 1-by-6s) flat in the garden and leave them overnight. In the morning, you’ll find the critters hiding under the boards. Scrape the pests into the trash and dispose of them.
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▪ Catch stink bugs early. Mature females are coming out of hibernation. Their eggs are now appearing on the underside of leaves (kale, broccoli and fava beans are favorite nest sites). The eggs resemble tiny pearls laid in neat rows. The young stink bugs look like long-legged aphids. With gloves, pick them off and drop them into an old coffee can with an inch of soapy water. Then, cover the can and dispose of it. Or suck them off plants with a hand-held vacuum dedicated to garden duty.
▪ With warmer weather comes mosquito season. Empty water out of saucers under pots. Also, eliminate any other standing water that may have accumulated during spring showers. Wear long sleeves and long pants when working outside.
▪ In the vegetable garden, plant seeds for beets, carrots, celery, chard, endive, fennel, jicama, mustard, radish, spinach and turnips. Keep soil moist, not soggy.