Published on 02/18/10

Spring maintenance in the landscape

By Bob Westerfield

As the weather warms in the spring, our hands start itching to work in our landscapes and flower gardens.

Now is the time for any last minute pruning. Prune roses and most other non-spring blooming plants now, prior to their new flush. Early spring blooming plants can be pruned immediately after blooming if they need a trim.

Spring is also an ideal time to fertilize 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 over-fertilize, which can cause excess growth and loss of fertilizer to the environment.

Early spring is a great time to prepare annual and perennial flowerbeds. Although it may be too early to actually plant some tender annuals, you can get ready by tiling the bed and adding rich compost or top soil. Be sure the bed has good drainage, which promotes good root development. Other shrubs can safely be added to your landscape now as well. Even though they are small now, remember to provide ample space for the plants at maturity.

Weed control is also important in the spring. As the ground begins to warm, many weeds are just waiting to germinate. Applying a registered pre-emergent herbicide, or adding landscape fabric weed cloth or mulch, will go a long way to preventing weeds in the garden.

Houseplants can go back outside as daytime temperatures climb above 50 degrees. It is a good idea to bring plants back in, however, if the nighttime temperature dips much cooler than 45 degrees. Clean up ferns by removing old, crumpled foliage and re-pot any houseplants that have become root bound. Begin to get back on a regular watering and fertilizing schedule as the days get warmer.

Don’t forget about your equipment. If you didn’t do it at the beginning of winter, it is a good idea to drain and change the oil in your roto-tillers, weed eaters and mowers. Be sure that 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 is a season of anticipation and outdoor fun. By accomplishing a few gardening chores early, we can enjoy a beautiful landscape throughout the year.

Bob Westerfield is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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