Of course, the Algarve boasts colour year round, but April has the strongest punch of colour of any month. March was the first spring planting month, but if you did not get it all done, there is time to catch up in April. April can bring heavy rain interspersed with warm sunny days, speeding growth. Pests also benefit from the increased warmth, so one should pay attention to early control to avoid wreaking infestation later.
Hedges and shrubs
Both really spurt into growth in April. Many shrubs are capable of growing into trees if left to their own devices, but if you want the shrub appearance, it is important to prune now.
Myoporum is a very popular hedging shrub everywhere in the Algarve. To keep it as a shrub, windbreak or hedge, it needs to be cut back with loppers several times a year starting in April. Otherwise, it can grow up to 10 metres in height but the bottom will eventually go sparse and woody.
Photinia fraseri can reach to over three metres, so prune it often to your requirements. The new red growth will continue to reward. Don’t allow it to get too wide on the top, as the shade of the growth will cause the bottom section to go bare and gangly.
Oleanders are best pruned in September by removing entire branches after flowering, especially ones which are attaining greater height than the others. Take care in handling oleanders as all parts are highly poisonous.
Wisterias can be bought when in bloom and planted immediately; easy to grow and highly drought resistant once established. As it is deciduous, it can provide shade in summer and sunshine in winter on a patio area. Plant in full sun with sturdy support. Water and fertilise often in the first year or two.
If rains are insufficient, continue to water spring flowering bulbs. Fertilise those which have bloomed using liquid feed watered in as this will boost next year’s flowers. Tie the leaves after flowering if you find them untidy, but do not cut back the leaves until they are completely yellowed.
Roses will give their first blooms in April. Cutting them to put into vases is, of course, a kind of pruning, but when the first flush is over it is important to cut back the stems of those which have faded on the bush to encourage new buds. Cutting the stem long will mean a longer wait until the next flush, while a short cut will produce weaker new stems, so aim for a middle length of stem to cut back. Deadhead any roses which have remained on the bush and have faded.
Roses are favoured by a huge variety of pests and ailments, so check their condition regularly and take quick action to control pests and diseases using either chemical or biological methods according to preference.Continue to fertilise roses. Irrigate with up to three centimetres of water and increase frequency to twice a week unless it is a water-retentive soil or close to the coast.
Annuals and perennials
April is ideal for planting for summer colour. You can economise by sowing seeds for annuals and perennials. Plant them in sufficiently large boxes with good compost outdoors in semi-shade and covered with a plastic sheet. Keep moist until germinated then remove to a sunny spot, remove the plastic, and water daily. When two leaves have formed, fertilise them. Keep an eye out for snails, slugs and caterpillars.
Warm-season flower seeds to plant now include ageratum, anchusa, calliopsis, cosmos, coleus, marigold, nicotiana, portulaca, sweet alyssum and verbena. If the soil is warm enough, plant zinnia; if still too cold, wait until May. Plant tropical plants now. This is the last month before the real heat for planting ground covers.
If you can’t wait or don’t have the conditions for sewing seeds, visit a garden centre where you should be overwhelmed by choice.April is the best time to decorate patios with tubs and hanging baskets and it is also perfect for filling beds.
Feed lawns in April and water thoroughly after feeding.
April is the first month for putting in heat-loving vegetables, namely aubergines, bell peppers, cantaloupe and watermelons. There is still adequate time to plant seeds for green beans, beets, carrots, corn, courgettes, pumpkins and squash, some spinach, radishes, sunflowers, turnips, sweet potatoes and other vegetables.
If you started seeds in March, continue to plant more seeds now so that you can enjoy later crops rather than have a glut at the same time. For successive planting, use a quarter or a third of a seed package at intervals of two to three weeks.
Thin out vegetable rows so that remaining ones can grow healthy and productive. Keep all vegetables well watered, especially tomatoes and artichokes which should definitely not be allowed to dry out.
Continue to plant herbs in April, such as basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme from garden centre transplants, although parsley and basil can still be sown by seed. Grow French tarragon and mint in containers as they are invasive.
Continue to feed and water citrus trees and avocado trees.