March 2015
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Cherry Tree

This time of year the ornamental cherry trees get attention because they are so pretty in the landscape and usually get advertised by garden centers. (Not to be confused with fruiting cherries that don’t thrive here.) If you want to plant an ornamental cherry tree such as Yoshino, Akame, Kwanzan, etc., buying it in bloom insures that you will get the type of flowers you want. It’s helpful to know that a cherry tree is shallow rooted, so be sure to plant it in a place where you don’t mind just keeping mulched if grass should get thin and weedy underneath as the tree grows. Also, be aware that cherry trees are not long-lived trees (15-20 years); so put it in a place where you can enjoy it, but it won’t leave a big hole in the garden design if the tree is attacked by borers or suffers some other decline. Give the tree a well-drained spot; that is crucial as cherry species do not like wet feet.

 Daffodils can be moved even when in full bloom.  

Rearrange Daffodils?

If the daffodils in your garden are all mixed up and you’d rather they be grouped by color, bloom time or any other reason, you can move them now – while they are in bloom! Digging them up in all their glory may not seem like a plant-friendly thing to do, but if you pick up a shovel full of plant, bulb and root and gently tuck them into their new location, they won’t mind a bit. Water them in thoroughly to settle the soil. After the bulbs finish blooming, feed them with a little bulb booster fertilizer. The key is disturbing the root ball as little as possible. If you find the bulbs have worked their way deeply into the soil, use a long transplanting spade.

  Grow a variety of lettuces in a shallow pot to make a live salad bowl.

Plant a Lettuce Bowl

Now is the time to set lettuce transplants in the garden. Be sure to cover them if a hard freeze is predicted. Most lettuces will tolerate a light frost unless they’ve just come out of a greenhouse and are not properly hardened off. One quick idea is to plant a number of lettuces in a single container for a mix of greens in your salad. Wider is better than deeper in the case of lettuce, as you want plenty of surface area for the leaves to expand, while the plants themselves are relatively shallow rooted compared to most other crops. Containers 8 inches deep are okay as long as they hold enough volume of soil to keep from drying out too quickly. (I’ve seen old birdbath bowls repurposed as containers with a large hole drilled for drainage.) Feed your lettuce plants regularly with a good liquid fertilizer such as Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food and they will provide you with a host of salads before hot weather causes them to bolt (grow tall to bloom) and turn bitter.

Match the Gloves to the Job

Garden gloves come in many types and materials, and some are especially suited to certain jobs. For example, the nitrile-coated stretchy type is excellent for planting and working in wet soil. Are you laying brick or stone? Choose a rugged leather glove that wears well. For raking leaves or other jobs that require a good grip or a lot of repetitive motion that could wear a blister on your hand, get a pair that fit well and have a non-slip coating finish to help provide a good grip. I find that nitrile-coated stretch gloves have many multi-purpose uses and are also easy to rinse or even put in the washing machine (delicate cycle, no dryer). Finally, for pruning prickly plants such as roses or blackberries, my fancy elbow-length leather gloves can’t be beat. They are expensive and often hard to find unless you mail order them, but since I only use them a few times a year for thorny pruning tasks, they should last for many years.

This e-book, available from iBooks or iTunes, includes some great information on gardening basics.  

Check out the new "Gardening in the South" ebook

The folks at Alabama Extension Service have compiled a lot of great horticultural know-how into an ebook called "Gardening in the South, Volume 1: Getting Started." Topics include some great general information about soils, botany and propagation that leads to understanding of how plants and the garden environment work. When you understand that, it is easy to solve problems and do new things. Other topics include greenhouse growing and a compilation of practical advice from Alabama Smart Yards meant as a smart approach to landscape maintenance. One great feature of the book is a brief quiz at the end of each chapter to check your knowledge of key points. All in all this is a great training book to recommend for your friends and family to learn some basics of horticulture and enjoy their lawn and garden. The book is available for $9.99 from iBooks or iTunes for your Apple devices.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.