ASK THE COUNTY AGENT: What Can I Do to Prepare for Spring Gardening Season?
By Stephanie Butcher, UGA Extension-Coweta County
Question: What can I do now to prepare for the spring gardening season?
Agent: The bleak, blustery days of winter often give us the feeling we should be working inside instead of attending to our landscapes. On really cold days, this certainly makes sense; but here in Georgia, we are sure to have some mild days even in January and February. There are many important jobs that can be done now to prepare our landscapes for the coming spring.
Begin now to prune shrubs and trees (including fruit trees) to shape them and remove deadwood. Remember to delay pruning of spring-flowering plants, such as azaleas, forsythia and spireas, until after they have finished blooming in the spring – unless they need some major overhaul pruning. Severe pruning is best done in February before new growth begins.
This is also a good time to check the condition of your pruning equipment and lawnmowers. Now is the perfect time to inspect and sharpen any dull blades. It is best to use a small file or sharpening stone and stay away from the electric grinders for this task.
Although the ideal time to transplant shrubs and small trees may have been in late fall, you can still move plants now through early spring. The three keys to successful transplanting are 1) transplant shrubs and trees when the ground is not too moist or soggy; 2) dig and move transplants with as many intact roots as possible; and 3) prepare the planting hole as well as possible.
Always dig the planting holes for new transplants prior to digging up the plants themselves. This reduces the amount of time the roots are exposed to drying winds and sunlight, thus helping to reduce transplant shock. You can also reduce transplant shock by taking as much of the original root ball as possible. One useful trick to use when transplanting a shrub or tree a short distance in the yard is to have a flat piece of cardboard or plywood nearby. Place the removed shrub or tree on the cardboard or plywood and then simply drag the plant to the intended planting site. By doing it this way, there is much less chance of losing part of the root ball because the plant is barely lifted off the ground.
Don’t forget to water newly transplanted shrubs and trees. Transplants need a good soaking immediately after moving and additional watering during dry or windy periods. Mulch all new transplants with a 4-inch layer of suitable material to reduce erosion.
Now is a great time to do some general maintenance around your flower beds. Remove any existing dead foliage from the annuals and perennials in your landscape to reduce the chance of disease later in the year.
Scout the lawn for emerged winter annuals and apply the appropriate post-emergent herbicide, if needed. Lawn burweed is a prime example of a weed that is actively growing right now. In the spring, it will form sharp stickers. I often get calls about this weed, because someone has stepped on the stickers. Unfortunately, it’s too late to treat in the spring. Even if you kill the weed, the stickers don’t go away.
For more information about winter landscaping chores, email [email protected] or call 770-254-2620.
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Top Photo: Courtesy of Joseph Obrien, USDA Forest Service.