Late Winter Activities

Kathy Henderson

The calendar is moving quickly from Christmas to Easter. This year we will be able to plant our entire summer garden on Good Friday which falls on April 18 since Easter is on April 20. With that late date, we can even get tomatoes and peppers into the garden if weather permits. However, I usually wait until the first of May for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash and any other crop that needs warm soil.

Fruiting stems on a Nandina plant in Kathy’s garden. Special photo

We need to be ready for spring and it starts right now. It is time to prune the crepe myrtles, all our broadleaf evergreens (hollies, boxwood, tea olive, camellias after they finish blooming and others). Do not prune azaleas, forsythia, quince (except to enjoy the blooms in the house) or any other plants that bloom in the Spring. However, I would prune my gardenias if they have gotten really large and need to be brought down about half or more. You will sacrifice many of this year’s blooms, but you will benefit from the new growth coming quickly. Remove the large, older stems of the Nandinas by cutting them all the way to the ground. This will cause new growth from the base of the plant and give you a nice bushy plant. It is time to prune the roses so that you will get growth where you want it. Be a little violent with your roses - get a book on pruning roses or go on the internet to find a diagram that will help you make decisions about the height to cut your type of rose - hybrid tea, bush roses, multiflora, climbing, miniature, etc.

Cut down ornamental grasses if you have not done so already. Getting those dead stems removed before new growth emerges makes for more attractive plants. Cut back Liriope (border grass) before the new growth emerges to prevent cutting the tips of the new leaves.

Muscadine Grapes need to be pruned within the next couple of weeks. Find a diagram of how this is done at the Cooperative Extension office or go online for that information also. Cutting them back early and properly will mean more high quality fruit in the late summer.

Early March is the perfect time to fertilize fescue lawns, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and winter vegetables. After winter-flowering shrubs have finished blooming, prune them by thinning and cutting out old growth. Then fertilize lightly with an all purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 or a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.

Early March is a great time to plant English peas, Irish potatoes, radishes, greens of all kinds (turnips, mustard, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, Swiss Chard) and cool season herbs like parsley and chives. Look for onion sets in the nursery - time to plant these also. Try some sweet peas in your flower beds - they love cool weather.

Right now is a great time to plant hardy perennials, fescue, shrubs of all kinds and still enough cool weather to plant those trees that you have been wanting to get into the landscape.

If you are planning a vegetable garden, now is the time to get the soil ready by taking some samples to the Extension Service to find out how much lime and fertilizer to add to your soil. Plow up the soil or turn the weeds under and add some organic matter to increase both the fertility and the drainage texture of the soil. Getting your soil properly prepared for both landscape and vegetable garden situations is extremely important. Well-drained soil preparation with good fertility saves both money and time as well as providing the conditions necessary for growing beautiful, healthy plants. If you need more topsoil, buy screened topsoil.