March 2008
Featured Articles



PLANT


• Beware of close-out sales on bare-root trees and shrubs. Chances of survival are rather low on bare-root plants this late in the season.
• Lettuces, mixed field greens and other cool season vegetables can still be planted in the vegetable garden. Warm season crops like Bonnie tomato plants will be showing up at your local Co-op store. Keep in mind, on average, the last frost in Central Alabama is not until mid-April, so if planted in March, these plants will need a little protection if temperatures dip below freezing. Remember last Easter!

• Soak beet seed overnight in luke-warm water, drain and place seed one inch deep and one inch apart. Cover with loose soil, firm. Break crust formed by beating rains with gentle action of rake. If transplanting: transplant seedlings when three inches tall, leaving plants three inches apart. Cabbage plants should be set 18 inches apart. Firm soil and water each plant.

• Carrot seed must be covered very lightly—¼ inch is too much. A few radish seeds sown in carrot row help mark the row until the carrots are up. Sow seed thinly and thin established plants to three inches.

• English peas are best planted one inch apart, two inches deep and 12 inches from next row. Plant at least two varieties for extended production.

• Plant potatoes right away. Use certified seed and plant on new potato ground.

Now is an excellent time to select and plant container-grown roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden.

• Select gladiolus corms
for March planting. Plant at two-week intervals to prolong flowering period.

Plant dahlia tubers in late February and early March.


FERTILIZER

• Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow and then only very lightly the first year.

• Pansies and violas planted last fall are blooming, blooming, blooming. An application of fertilizer now will give them a boost and you will be rewarded with even more flowers until temperatures heat up. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies.

• Buy your slow-release lawn fertilizer now and be ready to apply it in April.

• As camellia and azalea plants finish blooming, fertilize them according to label directions with azalea-camellia fertilizer. Then feed them again in six weeks. If lace bugs have been a problem in the past, feed them with systemic azalea foods.

• If you’ve got pecan trees and didn’t feed them in February, do so now.

• Fertilize asparagus, berries, grapes and figs.

• Fertilize roses once a month from now until the end of September. Roses are heavy feeders.


PESTS

• As hosta and other shade perennials send up new, tender foliage, watch for hungry slugs. Slug baits used early in the season will help protect the tender new foliage. Good garden clean up is also helpful . Check under containers, garden art and other garden structures, removing and destroying these slimy creatures.

• As fresh new leaves emerge all over the garden - perennials, trees and shrubs - be on the lookout for aphids, tiny, teardrop shaped insects that congregate to feed on the tenderest foliage.

• Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches are ways of reducing the potential damage next spring.

• As the new leaves of dogwood trees emerge in the cool, wet spring weather, powdery mildew attacks. This fungus grows as a thin gray layer on the upper leaf surface and will often go unnoticed until summer heat when the affected leaves dry and really show the symptoms of stress. The time to attack powdery mildew is in early spring; by summer it is too late. Apply a systemic fungicide such as Immunox or Funginex according to label directions. A systemic fungicide is recommended because it will be taken into the leaf tissue, controlling the fungus as it attacks.

• Begin a fungicide regimen for hybrid tea and floribunda roses, if they are prone to black spot. This requires either a weekly or biweekly application, depending on the fungicide.


PRUNE

• Prune bush roses. Use good shears that will make clean cuts. Remove dead, dying and weak canes. Leave four to eight healthy canes and remove approximately one-half of the top growth and height of the plant.

• Climbing roses should be trained but not pruned. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic/wire plant ties. Securing canes now prevents damage from winds and contributes toward a more refined look to the garden when roses are blooming. Wait until after the spring flowering period to prune climbing or once-blooming shrub roses.

• Only light pruning should be done on trees, in order to clean up dead or damaged limbs. Remember, major pruning of large limbs is better for the trees in January or February.

• Prune azaleas after the bloom season. Try not to prune more than one-third of the bush.

• When pruning shrubs, first prune out any dead or damaged branches; then thin out by removing about one-third of the canes or stems at ground level, removing the oldest canes only and, last, shape the rest of the plant, but do not cut everything back to the same height.

• If you haven’t already planned your season’s plantings, do it now. Take advantage of companion planting to strengthen and reinforce plant vigor while repelling pests. For example, nasturtiums and marigolds repel whiteflies and aphids.

• Do not remove the foliage from daffodils or other perennial spring-blooming bulbs. The foliage should be left for at least six weeks in order to store enough energy in the bulb, before dormancy, to insure next spring’s bloom. This is why tulips are poor perennial performers in Southern gardens. Winter turns to summer quickly and the foliage dies before the bulb can store enough energy to produce next year’s bloom.

• Ventilate your cold frame whenever the temperature is above 45°.


ODD JOBS

• Prepare beds and garden area for spring planting. Use completed compost for bed preparation - use partially-completed compost as a top-dressing mulch or return to compost pile.

• Turn the compost pile.

• Mulch all bare soil.

• Check with your local county agent for the average last killing freeze date for your area. Killing freezes can and do occur after this date, but it will be a good indication.

• There is often a strong temptation to start removing winter mulches from your flower beds.... WAIT!!! Pull the mulch off gradually as the plants show signs of new growth. The purpose of winter mulch is to act as a protector from sudden changes of temperature and chilling winds, so keep in mind it is still winter. Acclimatize your plants by removing the mulch over a period of days, allowing the light and air to reach the new growth slowly. It is much better to remove the mulch a little later than to remove it too early.

• If you haven’t gotten around to it, clean out all of your birdhouses now, so they will be ready when the birds return.

• Most lawns will need a spring feeding but if thatching or liming needs to be done, do those jobs first.

• Check your lawn mower, especially sharpening the blades, before starting to mow.

• Check mulch underneath shrubs; add more if needed.

• Remove winter coverings from roses when forsythia is in full bloom (still watch weather for cool nights).

• Finish your winter cleanup, including floating debris from the surface of water gardens.

• Check supports on newly planted trees.

• Check any overwintered bulbs and plants (including aquatics) to insure they are still healthy and haven’t dried out or rotted.

• Mist or spray your houseplants to clean away the winters dust, prevent spider mites and add a little humidity. Water containerized plants only when needed and not by the calendar.

• Repair any fencing, arbors or trellis work that is weak or has broken over the winter ... before you get too busy!

• March is a good time to note areas of poor drainage. If there are pools of water in your yard that do not drain, fill in the low spot or scoop out a channel for the water to drain away.

• Keep the birds singing; don’t forget to feed them.