Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Gardening

With spring finally upon us, many plants are rapidly growing.

If perennials browned and died back last fall and weren’t cut, do it now. Examples are liatris, verbenas and black-eyed Susans. Clip liriope and perennial ornamental grasses. Use shears, string trimmers, or a mower on its highest setting.

Some winter or early spring flowering perennials like leatherleaf sedges (Carex buchcananii) and evergreen sedges (C. pendula) shouldn’t be cut back. They can be slow to renew or not renew at all. Don’t prune dianthus or winter-blooming hellebores, except browned leaves.

After daffodil and tulip flowers fade, cut stems that held flowers (scapes) to the base. Leave daffodils in the ground. Minor bulbs like crocus, hyacinthoides and scilla will season without cutting. Tulips are best dug as the foliage yellows. Lay bulbs in the sun to dry for about two weeks, protected by chicken wire cages if wildlife is a problem. When bulbs dry, knock off soil, separate bulbs, place in porous bag with vermiculite to keep them firm and store in cool dry location until you replant in November.
Prune forsythia, floweringquince and winter jasmine after blooming. Cut forsythia in half or to a height where it won’t require pruning again until after blooming next year. Flower buds will form on this year’s new growth. Floweringquince doesn’t need pruning if it flowered well this year. When more wood than flowers show, cut back to 18”. Winter jasmine only needs pruning when it’s overtaking an area and is growing where you don’t want it. It can be cut to 12” after flowering. Only renew overgrown plants that have lost ornamental value.
Incorporate organic material into root zones of plants. It helps tree roots retain moisture and increases ability for soil to hold nutrients. Lay fine textured compost or Leafgro 1-2” thick around root systems at tree base. It’s the perfect complement to fertilizer. Don’t pile against bark.

Insects are waking up and disease-causing organisms that were dormant during winter are emerging. Spray dormant-oil insecticide or fungicide. Spraying now will insure the least negative impact on the environment by reducing necessity for additional spraying during growing season. If you don’t want to use a petroleum-based product, mix 1-cup vegetable oil with 2 tablespoons liquid soap (not dishwasher detergent). Slowly add one gallon of water to create your spray. Use a sprayer that never contained insecticide or weed killer to apply. Only use dormant-oil on plants when it is the recommended method of pest control.

Utilize low, inexpensive fencing around areas where rabbits munch. Eighteen to 24” is tall enough. As leaves mature, rabbits stop eating foliage. Mothballs, dried blood, castor oil, and cayenne pepper have limited success and need to be re-applied frequently.

Try protecting plants from deer with fences, walls, chain-link or deer fence. The latter is rigid black plastic mesh 8’ tall that can be snaked around trees, through woods, and be self-supporting. Other popular remedies include motion-sensor activated water sprays, lights, sound, soap, hair and animal-based products using egg mixtures. Check with your local garden center for deer-resistant plants and the Cooperative Extension Service, www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html.

©2013 Joel M. Lerner
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Editor, Sandra Leavitt Lerner

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