Wake up garden with timely tips for spring
By Lucy Edwards
Regional Extension Agent
Ready to get growing? Spring has arrived, and that means it’s time to wake up those sleepy gardens for another season.
As long as the ground is not frozen, now is the time to plant fruit trees, including apples, peaches, pears and muscadines. Landscape shrubs and trees may also be planted, including broadleaf, narrowleaf and deciduous.
What else is it time for? Consider tackling these garden chores:
- Prune winter-damaged limbs. Be careful not to prune too heavily before the chance of winter frost has past.
- If the shrub grows from several stems, cut out the oldest and largest stems. If the shrub grows from one trunk, thin out some of the branches, especially those that crisscross or overlap each other.
- Prune the shrub to the shape you want it. Cuts should be made 1/4-inch above a bud or to a crotch – lateral branch – as opposed to in the middle of a branch.
- Remember that new growth will be generated within 6 inches from where you make your cut.
- May rule: If a tree or bush blooms before May, prune it immediately after it has bloomed. If it blooms after May, prune it prior to new growth in the spring. There are some exceptions to the May rule, such as hydrangeas and camellias. Hydrangeas are summer bloomers but should be pruned immediately after they bloom.
- To determine the direction of new growth, simply prune to a bud or branch pointing in the direction you desire for new growth to occur.
- Soil test the lawn to know fertility program.
- Lime can take three to six months to raise the soil pH.
- Soil test boxes and forms are available at the local Extension office.
- Do not fertilize prior to April; wait until the lawn is actively growing.
Pre-emergent weed control may be applied to any home lawn prior to green-up. Be selective and try to avoid herbicide-fertilizer combinations. Try these tips for choosing the right herbicide:
- Be prepared before you shop. Know what type of grass you have, the weed types – broadleaf, grass or sedge –you normally have in your lawn and what type of equipment you have available for applying an herbicide.
- Read the label on the herbicide container. The label gives you all the information you need to know about a particular herbicide, including what grasses it’s safe to use the product on, the weeds it controls, when and how to apply and much more. Remember: The label is the law. Follow all label directions exactly! Failure to do so is unsafe for you, the environment and your lawn, not to mention a complete waste of money.
- Ask questions if you are unsure about a product. Go to a reputable garden center with trained, knowledgeable employees or contact your local Extension Office for help. It’s better to ask questions before you purchase or apply an herbicide than to make a costly mistake.
- Examine your irrigation system and make sure it works properly. It’s been a cold winter, so damage might have occurred to sprinklers and lines. Before hot weather arrives, check to ensure your sprinklers are providing even coverage over the lawn.
- Give houseplants a bath in lukewarm water to remove dust. Placing them in the shower works well. As the day length increases, the plants will begin active growth. Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer, 20-20-20.
- Seeds of hardy vegetables, root crops, roots and tubers can be planted, including beets, carrots, radishes and turnips.
- Consider planting lettuce, cabbage, kale and broccoli transplants for a winter garden.
- As you go about the yard and garden, check out your garden structures for any needed repairs. Now is when it’s easiest to fix arbors, trellises and more without the green growth of vines and climbing roses to obscure what might need nailing or wiring.
- See if any furniture or garden benches need a new coat of paint or stain.
- Clean bird baths out thoroughly.
- Check for loose stepping-stones and patio pavers and secure them.
For more tips and tricks, watch the “Get Outside with Alabama Smart Yards Webinar,” every Wednesday at 1 p.m. on Zoom at auburn.zoom.us/j/82398811386