Spring gardening tasks await

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

A multitude of gardening tasks await us each spring. Pruning dead limbs and selecting plants and seeds are tasks that I cherish. Here are some things that I will be working on this spring.

Christmas Amaryllis planted in the garden multiply and live for many years. Special photo

Cut back those damaged Hydrangea stems. If you have plenty of growth coming from the base and old stems with healthy new growth, then prune back to about 18” - 24” (wherever strong leaves arise). Fertilize with an all-purpose or shrub fertilizer, being careful to keep the fertilizer in the root zone, away from leaves and stems.

Crape Myrtles should be pruned by cutting back last years growth to strong leaves. Thin stems and keep the beautiful shape of the tree. Whacking them back by cutting the main trunk will make weak growth that will break off when blossoms become heavy. This makes for a strange, un-natural looking plant. Crape Myrtles do not have to be pruned at all in order to bloom!

After Azaleas bloom, they may be pruned and fertilized. Do not prune until the blooms have finished except to enjoy a branch in your home. If bringing a branch inside, mash the cut end with pliers and place in tepid water. That helps the branch to absorb the water it needs to keep it from wilting.

Hopefully you receive Easter Lilies and enjoy them in the home. When they have completed their bloom, plant them outside in a sunny place with good soil and you will enjoy them for years to come. They need good drainage and sunshine. Tip: Look at the stores after Easter and purchase “ratty looking” plants for very little. Plant these in the landscape. Tired of looking after that amaryllis you received at Christmas? Plant in in the same type planting area and enjoy it for years to come.

Of course, this is the perfect time to plant the vegetable garden. If you have a new space, get someone to plow or roto-till (or both) to break that hard ground up. If it is heavy clay, then add some top-soil and composted cow manure and incorporate these into your soil. The “key” word when adding supplemental materials (bark, topsoil, peat moss, manures, etc.) is incorporate! Just digging a hole and throwing in these materials is not the way to garden. Incorporate and raise the planting area slightly to improve drainage. This is also important for annuals, perennials and shrubs.

Annuals give you the most color for the longest period of time, but most die after their season. Perennials are plants that give you color for years, but most have a short period of bloom and then they are just greenery with occasional flowering. So it is important to have a blend of early, mid and late summer flowering perennials and a splash of annuals.

Have a dry area that just does not seem to grow anything? Try Daylilies, Tritoma, Iris, and Sedums. Goldenrods will also thrive in these situations. They are beautiful and are not the cause of sneezing - it is Ragweed that blooms at the same time and is not showy that triggers the worse allergies and miseries. I love the showy ‘Fireworks‘ and ‘Golden Fleece’ (a dwarf form).

Trees and Shrubs can be added to the landscape - Remember, Incorporate - don’t just dig a hole if the soil is a clay-based one. And most of our soil is clay, which is good if amended with organic materials.

Follow recommendations for your type of lawn grass. Your local nurseryman and the Cooperative Extension Service can help you with that. Use a high quality fertilizer and use it in a program, suggested on the label. Be careful with herbicide blend fertilizers.

Fertilize shrubs and trees that are established in the landscape after they bloom. Go lightly! Too much fertilizer can damage the plant and/or make it grow lots of fast, weak shoots.

When fertilizing perennials and annuals, apply the fertilizer, then water to remove it from the leaves. If using a liquid fertilization program, I would do the same. Liquid fertilizer on the leaves and flowers on a sunny day can damage both. Do this early in the morning, not mid-day.

There is so much more to do right now; busy time in the landscape and garden. Check out Kathy’s Plants on Facebook and feel free to post questions. I will get them answered as soon as I can, but know I am in the garden. Visit my farm in Locust Grove and I will try to guide you to good gardening success.