By Robert R. Westerfield
University of Georgia
The list of possible landscape jobs is almost endless. But focus now on the more important tasks. It's a good time, for instance for last-minute pruning.
Prune roses and other woody ornamentals before their new spring flush. Prune plants that bloom in early spring, such as dogwoods and azaleas, immediately after they bloom -- if they need a trim.
Use quality pruning tools that are razor sharp. Don't leave stubs when you prune. Cut just above a dormant bud or close to the main trunk just outside the branch collar.
Fertilize rightSpring is also an ideal time to fertilize your shrubs. Apply a slow-release fertilizer in late March or early April to give your plants a supply of energy for the growing season.
Be careful not to overfertilize. Your plants don't need excessive growth, and the environment doesn't need the fertilizer your plants can't take up.
Not every plant in the landscape needs fertilizer. Mature, large shrubs may not need any additional growth or added nutrition. Take a soil test to your county University of Georgia Extension Service office. The test will tell you what your plants' exact nutritional needs are.
Bed prepEarly spring is a great time to prepare annual and perennial flower beds, too. It may be too early to plant some tender annuals. But you can be ready by tilling the bed and adding rich compost or topsoil.
Check that the bed has good drainage so the plants' roots can develop properly. Raised beds often work best for annuals.
Other shrubs can safely be added to your landscape in the spring, too. Remember to provide ample space for the new plants to reach their mature size.
Pesky weedsWeed control is critical in the spring. As the ground begins to warm, many weeds are just waiting to germinate. It's easier to control at the early stage or prevent them all together than to root them out when they are mature and tough.
Applying a registered preemergent herbicide or adding landscape fabric weed cloth or mulch will go a long way to preventing weeds in the flower garden. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of pine straw or chips to mulch the landscape bed.
Houseplants can go back outside, too, as daytime temperatures climb above 50 degrees. It's a good idea to bring plants back in, however, if the nighttime temperature is going to dip much lower than 50 degrees.
Clean up ferns by removing old, crumpled foliage. Repot any houseplants that have become rootbound. Start back on the regular watering and fertilizing schedule as the days get warmer.
More choresDon't forget about your equipment. If you haven't done so at the beginning of winter, it's still a good idea to drain and change the oil in your rotary tillers, weed eaters and mowers. Be sure all nuts, bolts and belts are tight and that any blades are sharp.
Check hand tools such as shovels, hoes and rakes for cracked or dry handles. Treat them with linseed oil or paint them to protect them and extend their life.
Spring fever is a good thing if it gets you to thinking about working outside. A little work in your landscape now can prepare it for months of enjoyment as the season gets warmer.
(Bob Westerfield is an Extension Service consumer horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)