Southwest

What to do in your garden in April
Kim Nelson

Planting

Carefree color. If you don't like to spend time deadheading faded flowers, you won't have to fuss over these: Angelonia angustifolia, Bidens ferulifolia, Evolvulus 'Blue Haze', globe amaranth (Gomphrena), and heliotrope.

Citrus. Sunset climate zones 12, 13 (Tucson, Phoenix): Set out grapefruits ('Marsh' and 'Rio Red'), lemons ('Eureka' and 'Lisbon'), mandarins ('Fremont' and 'Kinnow'), and sweet oranges such as Arizona Sweets ('Hamlin' and 'Marrs') and 'Valencia'. In cold-winter areas, you can grow 'Improved Meyer' lemon in a large container as an indoor-outdoor plant.

Insectary plants. Certain plants attract beneficial bugs, which help control garden pests. To entice the beneficial ones like lacewings, ladybird beetles, and parasitic flies and wasps, mix some of the following into beds and borders: annuals (cosmos, sunflower, sweet alyssum), herbs (mint, sage), and perennials (coreopsis, Eriogonum, Scabiosa, tansy, yarrow).

Trees. Celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree. If you live in Arizona, Nevada, or Texas, Arbor Day falls on April 29 this year (New Mexico celebrated it on March 11); visit www.arborday.org for more information. Among the shade trees suited for small gardens are feather bush tree (Lysiloma thornberi), nonflowering 'Swan Hill' olive, 'Desert Museum' palo verde, and weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis).

Vegetables. Zones 1a-3b: Set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Swiss chard. Sow seeds of beets, carrots, salad greens, spinach, and turnips. Zone 10 (Albuquerque, Sedona): Set out seedlings of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Sow seeds of beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, okra, and squash. Zones 11-13: Set out transplants of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Sow seeds of black-eyed peas, carrots, corn, cucumbers, green onions, lima and snap beans, melons, okra, radishes, and squash.

Vigorous perennials. Consider these hardy perennials that need little care. Zones 1a-3b, 10: Cinquefoil (Potentilla species), penstemon, and perennial blue flax (Linum perenne). Zones 11-13: French lavender (Lavandula dentata), lavender starflower (Grewia occidentalis), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), rosemary, and twinspur (Diascia hybrids).

Maintenance

Feed palms, roses. Give palms their first feeding of the year; fertilize monthly through summer. As roses enter peak bloom season, give them a dose of rose food every two weeks to increase flower size and yield. If the leaves of roses, citrus, and evergreens turn yellow while the veins remain green, the plant is likely suffering from chlorosis. To correct this iron deficiency, apply a product containing chelated iron. In all cases, water deeply before you apply fertilizer and immediately afterward.

Prune cactus. Remove dead or damaged cactus pads and branches of other spiny succulents, but take care not to puncture yourself in the process. The Cactus Pruner ( www.cactuspruner.com or 303/232-8788) has developed a line of tools made especially for this task, including the Cactus Saw ($25) and Cactus Whacker ($17).