Where did winter go? Well, for most of us in the South, it was never here. And with the spring thaw nearly upon us, it’s time to ask yourself — is my garden ready for spring? Surely, no question in the world is more important. The following checklist will get you off to a good start.
Planting & Transplanting
Q: Is it safe to plant and transplant trees, shrubs, and perennials now?
A: Yes, as long as your ground isn’t frozen or covered with three feet of snow. Roots in unfrozen soil continue to grow all winter. Note — Grumpy’s advice does not apply to plants in your neighbor’s yard. Leave those alone.
Improving the Soil
Q: I want to plant a new vegetable garden this spring. Should I add compost and other to things to my clay soil now to improve it or should I wait things are really growing?
A: It’s almost impossible to add too much organic matter to clay soil. The organic matter breaks up the clay better than anything else, permitting the easy passage of water, air, and nutrients. But you don’t want to till wet soil, because you’ll likely end up compacting the soil and creating unbreakable clods. So Grumpy’s advice is to starting storing organic matter — chopped leaves, composted cow manure, peat moss, ground bark– near the new garden. When the soil is dry and crumbly enough to work easily, till in the organic matter. Do this several years in a row and your soil will be dang near perfect.
Q: Should I start fertilizing my lawn and outdoors plants yet?
A: In most cases, no. You never want to feed a plant that’s still dormant and not making any new growth. If you do, most of the nutrients will just wash away before they’re used. So don’t fertilize your warm-season lawn (Zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede) until after it turns green. Don’t feed cool-season lawns (bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue) if your soil is frozen. And don’t fertilize other outdoor plants until after they start growing new foliage.
Q: Should I be pruning anything now? Is now a safe time?
A: That depends on the plant. If it blooms in the spring on growth made the previous year (azalea, lilac, forsythia, spirea, loropetalum, ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea, Lady banks rose, etc.) and you prune now, you’ll cut off all the blooms. However, plants that bloom in summer on the current year’s growth (crepe myrtle, chaste tree, gardenia, ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, ‘Knockout’ rose, angel’s trumpet, hibiscus, etc.) are OK to prune now. And it’s always OK to prune off dead growth.
Q: Leaves of my daffodils and other bulbs are already coming up! Should I cover them on freezing nights?
A: Don’t bother. Many bulbs send up foliage in winter long before flower appear with no harm to the leaves. However, bulb flowers can be damaged by a deep freeze. If your bulbs are in full bloom when a freeze is expected, either cut them and put them in a vase indoors or try piling something light, like pine straw or tree leaves, atop them for temporary insulation.