- Special Sections
- Public Notices
We’re working on our first full week of spring and that means lots of garden chores showing up on the honey-do list. If you’re still looking for something to do, go ahead and finish the pruning chores, fertilize your shrub beds if they need it and add a bit of fresh mulch. But, leave the lawn fertilizer in the bag for now and try to resist the urge to plant summer annuals unless you’re prepared to lose them to a late frost.
This time of year is a great time to prune evergreens such as hollies and camellias, flowering quince, forsythia and other early-spring plants that have finished blooming. It’s also just right to finish any pruning necessary on crape myrtles, rose-of-sharon and vitex that bloom later in the season.
All of your trees and shrubs don’t have to be pruned. Remove dead, diseased, dying and damaged tissue. Take out crossing or “fiddler” limbs. Prune shoots that are out of character with the shape of the plant.
Unless you have a formal garden with sheared hedges and geometric shapes, leave the shears in the tool shed. Instead, use hand pruners, loppers and pruning saws to make thinning out cuts that will help maintain the natural form of the plant. Its shape will fit much better in our typically informal gardens and landscapes.
Once you’ve finished the pruning chores, go ahead with a light fertilization of trees, shrubs and perennials in the garden. If you don’t have specifics from a soil test, use a complete fertilizer (one that contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) with slow-release nitrogen. You’ll find 10-10-10, 13-13-13, 12-6-6 and lots of others out there. Just don’t get carried away and apply too much.
Generally, broadcasting the fertilizer on the surface is perfectly acceptable. Unless the soil is severely compacted, there’s no need to dig holes or rake back the mulch. Try to distribute the fertilizer evenly over the entire root area and sweep or blow material that finds its way to streets, sidewalks and driveways back into the bed.
Fresh mulch always makes garden beds look better. In Southeastern North Carolina, pine straw (or needles if you’re from up “nawth”), pine bark, hardwood bark and color-dyed wood products are most popular.
Which is best? Avoid hardwood bark if you already have high soil pH. Pine bark nuggets and chips don’t work well in beds where water collects because they float. I can’t quite grasp using red mulch unless you’re McDonald’s or Taco Bell, but that’s just me. The mulch you use really boils down to what you like.
Hold off on the lawn fertilization until the middle of April. A good rule to follow with warm-season grasses is to wait to fertilize until after you’ve had to mow twice.
Even though spring is officially here, we can still have cold weather. Unless you’re willing to take the risk, wait to plant summer flowering annuals until after April 15.
Al Hight is the county extension director and horticulturist with the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail email@example.com.