Signs of spring are already present throughout Georgia and gardeners are once again feeling the urge to dig in the dirt.
There are so many activities to be done in preparation for the spring growing season.
The following are just a few chores that should be done during March:
• Apply the first application of fertilizer to trees, shrubs and perennials.
Without the benefit of a soil test, a 12-4-8, 16-4-8 or 10-10-10 are recommended. Broadcast the fertilizer over planting areas uniformly (prior to a rain if possible).
Don’t be afraid to fertilize azaleas and other spring-blooming plants. Fertilizer will not affect flowering.
Most established trees, shrubs and groundcovers will require only one application of fertilizer for the entire season.
• Prune crepe myrtles and other summer-flowering shrubs before growth begins.
Prune crepe myrtle to a natural tree form (3-5 main trunks) with thinning cuts.
Avoid cutting main branches back severely to nubs since the resultant growth will be thick, dense, unnatural-looking and susceptible to aphids.
Prune spring-flowering ornamentals after they bloom, if they require pruning.
Prune with a purpose — to reduce size, increase branching or thin thick, dense growth.
• Cut back ornamental grasses to make way for new growth.
Most ornamental grasses can be cut back close to the ground. Lopping shears are preferred. Often the old winter growth is too tough for hedge shears.
Be sure to wear gloves since the leaves are often razor-blade sharp.
After cutting back the plant you may also choose to divide the clump for additional plantings. A maddock is a useful tool for this division.
• Make plans for summer annual beds, but don’t jump the gun and plant too soon.
Late winter freezes can be devastating to warm-season annuals.
• Prune hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses. Prune climbing roses after they bloom.
• Fertilize bulbs when the foliage emerges 2-3 inches with a light application of 10-10-10 fertilizer (1 pound per 100 square feet). Avoid getting fertilizer in the foliage.
• Once iris flower you can remove the flower stalk, but let the foliage remain on the plant to produce food for the plant the next year.
• Replenish mulch in areas where it has become sparse. Pine straw, shredded leaves or chipped wood are excellent mulches.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.