Big and showy, forsythia is a spectacular, easy-care shrub.
Big, Easy Yellow for Spring
It’s hard to beat forsythia for ushering spring in the landscape. Every year this shrub blooms dependably, even surviving freezes that zap early flowers. Forsythia offers an inexpensive, drought-tolerant solution for landscaping an expansive area with a swath of color as the larger varieties will grow 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Give it space to spread and avoid planting where it would need pruning to control the size. Pruning ruins its natural fountain-like form. Smaller varieties exist for areas under windows or for narrow beds.
Get Ahead of Summer Weeds
Gardeners can control summer weed seedlings by sprinkling a pre-emergent herbicide before the weather warms. Trifluralin (Preen, Treflan) will keep many troublesome weeds from sprouting and save you a lot of work later. Apply cautiously according to label directions only in areas where the granules will stay put so they will eventually be broken down by soil microbes. Avoid any place where particles can wash into nearby streams or ponds as it is toxic to fish and other aquatics.
Christy Wilhelmi of Gardennerd.com calls greens such as mustard, collards, leaf lettuce and kale "factory vegetables." This is because of their nature of continuing to produce if you harvest only the outer leaves, letting the center ones remain so they grow more. The more you harvest the more they produce. Plant lettuce and leafy greens now for a few quick harvests before the weather gets too warm. Bonnie Plants will give you a big head start with transplants already several weeks old.
Clean up Liriope and Mondo
Trim mondo grass and monkey grass plantings so they will be green and fresh this summer.
Liriope and mondo grass always need a mowing early this month to remove the old foliage before the new growth appears. Because of the drought, plants may look especially tattered this year. You may need to replant in places where plants died by either dividing healthy clumps or buying new starts. Set plants about 6 inches apart for liriope and 3 inches apart for mondo so they will fill out quickly. Fine pine bark makes good mulch for weed control on flat ground because it is easy to spread between the plants, but it will wash away on slopes.
Caution About Shipping Pallets
Shipping pallets are used by gardeners for all sorts of projects, but beware; they are often treated to prevent invasive pests such as emerald ash borer from hitching a ride in the wood. This means that some pallets really shouldn’t be used in the garden or home, or burned. Treated pallets are marked with the International Plant Protection Convention logo and letters indicating what type of treatment was used. Avoid pallets with MB in the logo; they have been fumigated with methyl bromide, a poisonous gas that has been phased out for most agricultural uses. Those with the letters HT were heat-treated or kiln dried, but, even so, you will need to use caution because wood is porous and may have been exposed to chemicals, bacteria or unsanitary conditions during shipment. For home and garden use, look for pallets that have not been used to ship toxic products or food.
Spring Garden Seeds and Supplies
Black Spanish, Watermelon and Green radishes will expand the idea of what a radish can look like.
What worked from last year’s garden? What seeds do you have leftover from last year? Are they still viable? Do you have enough seed starting trays? Do you need a new trowel? Seed starting mix? A mister nozzle? New gloves? Make your list of what you need now to get everything at one time. List making is the only way I can keep from frustrating myself with a forgotten item.
Radishes Are Worth Growing at Home
A sliced radish is like a cracker; it’s ready to hold dip, a slice of cheese or a favorite spread, but healthier than flour. Thank goodness, we still have a few in the garden. At the price of $4 for a package of fancy-variety seed, I can grow hundreds of radishes for about the same price of two small bags or bunches at the store. Radishes are so easy to grow; they sprout reliably and are usually ready to eat in a month. Even if the sow bugs, or roly-polies, nibble at their skins, you can just cut away the scarred part. Now is a good time to start sowing seeds. If you plant a few each week, they will mature in sequence until the weather gets hot and the plants bolt.
Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.