With early plants blooming and the calendar telling us spring is here, we have many new chores to do in the garden to get ready for the great feast of color and beauty that will soon unveil itself to us.
Start by reviewing your plans for adding plants to the garden and getting those beds ready for planting. You’ll want to improve the soil with organic matter, lime (dolomitic) and a little fertilizer.
If you have not finished cutting back your dead perennials, do so very quickly as new growth will be springing forth as the soils warm up. Remove any dead annuals, weeds and trees that might have been hidden by the growth from last year.
If you have not yet cut back severely overgrown shrubs, do so immediately, as it takes six weeks for the latent buds to start to swell and break dormancy with new growth. Do not prune shrubs that already have flower buds!
If you did your pruning earlier, you will be getting some nice new growth toward the end of the month. You will need to tip prune the new growth by an inch or so to cause it to start developing side branches that will make the plant look fuller.
You can plant new shrubs at this time, but make sure you dig a hole that is twice as big as the root ball to allow the roots an easier time to develop into the surrounding soil. Remember one big problem with planting shrubs is planting too deep, so keep the top of the root ball at soil level or very slightly higher than the soil line.
After planting, water the area to make sure there are no air pockets around the root ball. This will settle the planting area and provide the plants with their first watering.
Weed control for lawns is critical at this time as the lawn is not trying to grow. You can kill the weeds before the grass starts to grow, so that it won’t be stressed by the chemicals that you apply.
If there are still leaves on the lawn from the winter, gather them up either with the lawn mower (but do not lower the blade height) or rake them. Wait a while before fertilizing, to let the grass start to grow. Otherwise the roots will not take it up and it will go past the root zone of the grass and be wasted.
Remember roots of grass start growing as the soil temperature approaches 70 degrees and night temperatures are around 60 or higher. Weeds don’t care about the temperature and will develop when the soil temperature is cooler. Your first concern for having a nice yard is to control the weeds first.
Edward Poenicke is a retired Chatham County extension agent. This article is provided in collaboration with Lawn Doctor of Beaufort County.