It’s time for Spring Maintenance to begin. We have already gone over cutting your perennials back for spring but there are a few other important tasks to consider. Here is a quick list of what you need to be thinking about concerning your perennials for this month:
- Be patient. It is still a little too early to think about getting many perennials in the ground that have been grown in containers. Most of these plants will not have had the time to properly take root well yet. If you are planning on installing any bareroot perennials and it’s not to wet to work you beds you can go ahead and install these.
- Remove any leaf mulch of evergreen boughs from your perennials. It is wise to keep these close at hand though in case it looks like we are going to get a typical late frost. I would recommend this is done on a cloudy day so that any shoots starting to emerge are not too shocked by the change in light exposure.
- Press any perennials that are showing signs of heaving from the frost back into the ground. Make sure you do this very carefully.
- Fertilize your perennial gardens towards the end of the month or into the beginning of April. Top dressing your beds with compost can also be done at this time. Make sure that you don’t apply this to thickly; you don’t want to smother any new growth.
- Touch-up the mulch in your beds at the end of the month.
- Cut back perennials that were left for winter interest (refer to prior post on cutting back perennials).
- Cut back your liriope. If you have a lot of it you can mow it just like turf grass.
I hope this helps answer some questions for all of you. If you need further advise I would recommed The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. I refer to it constantly when I need to check what all needs to be done when. This is a must have for your horticulture library. As always let me know if you have any questions and good luck.
One of the first questions I hear when spring is upon us is “what do I need to do to my lawn”. We have an obsession with our lawns in America and I want to pre-empt those questions with some answers. I spoke with Dr. AJ Powell with The Universtiy of Kentucky department of Agriculture. He is their guru of turf grass and he had the following advise:
- We had a very dry Fall for establishing new turf. If you need to thicken up the lawn or seed bare spots, it can be done the Spring by seeding tall fescue. You have to make sure that you get good contact between the seeds and the soil. If the soil is compacted make sure that you break it up to give the roots a better chance of taking hold. For generally poor cover, you can ren a dethatcher and use it to groove the soil and create voids for the seed to establish. After you seed bare spots you want to make sure to cover your seed with a 50% covering of straw (not hay, you will introduce weed seeds) to create some insulation for the seed. Keeping the soil surface wet is important for germination. Watering is especially important after a windy day; the wind will quickly dry out the surface of the soil where you most need it while esablishing seed. It will take around two weeks for tall fescue to start germinating now but that time will shorten as the weather warms up.
- Fall is the best time to fertilize your turf but if you did not have the chance then you can go ahead and fertilize lightly now.
- April 15th, that’s the magic date to make sure you have your crab grass pre-emergent down by. If you had a very heavy infestation of crabgrass last year, then you will need another application by late May early June. If you still have some crab grass come June you can spray it with a post-emergent crabgrass herbicide. Also look for the product with as little Nitrogen mixed in with it as possible(0-0-6 is ideal). The thinner your turf is the more prone you are to weeds and invasives, so make sure to get the seeding done now to help you a little later in the season. If you had white grub problems on your bluegrass lawn last year, then consider waiting unil June or July to apply a preventative grubicide.
- As soon as you start to see your broadleaf weeds (I’m seeing them now) go ahead and use your broadleaf herbicide. You can spot treat these throughout the year.
- Now is also the time to consider aerating your lawn. I have a personal preference for core aeration, make sure to leave the cores on your lawn afterward they will break down with time and as you start to mow.
These tips from Dr. Powell should help you get a great start as we head into Spring. If you have any further questions you can always contact me.
Driving around town or walking your garden you are bound to start to see Daffodils or Narcissus pushing up through the ground or already in bloom. This is one of my favorite plants because of its beauty and versatility. Daffodils are one of the many bulbs that perennialize and after 5-6 years in the ground can be divided and spread. These wonderful spring bloomers thrive in most soils and are virtually pest free.
Daffodils work great for so many applications. They can be planted on their own, or in turf, turning your lawn into a mass of color in early spring. I love to plant them in ground cover beds; after they are done blooming the ground cover hides their left over leaves as they break down and feed the bulb. There is a great temptation to cut this foliage back after they have finished blooming; but make sure you don’t follow that inclination. This is their main source of nutrients as they go back into dormancy through the rest of the year.
If you’re like me you may have some bulbs laying around that you ran out of time to get in the ground during fall. Don’t give up hope yet. If your bulbs are still firm and not squishy you can get them in the ground now; but don’t wait much longer. I’m getting my last few in this weekend. These will not reach their normal height this year and will bloom later but they will fall into a normal bloom cycle for next year.
Daffodils should have been fertilized in the fall but if you didn’t get the chance you can go ahead and apply a light fertilization now. This can be either a granular or water soluble fertilizer, you want to look for a fertilizer with progressively higher number such as 5-10-20. You can also top dress your Daffodils before they start to push up. They love broken down organic matter.
Finally!!! This feels like it’s been a long winter and I’m relieved to see some color. Witchhazel (Hamamelis) is one of my favorite early spring bloomers. When you come around a corner your are immediately overtaken by it’s sweet smell. The plant shown here is a Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnolds Promise’ and it has been espaliered against this wall in bright contrast to the brick.
There are many other cultivars of Hamamelis available. If you decide to plant one make sure to have well drained soil that will hold a little bit of moisture. Also remember that the flowers will be more brilliant in the full sun. If you need to trim note that Hamamelis bloom on “old wood” so prune soon after they have finished blooming. These plants are hardy and resilient and make a great addition to your garden to help bring a punch of color when there’s not much else.
With Spring quickly approaching it’s time to look at your garden’s maintenance and spring clean up chores. Today I want to look at what goes into getting some of your perennials cut back. It’s really important to make sure that you get things cut back before the new shoots of growth get to large and you accidentally cut what you really want to keep. This is especially true with cool season ornamental grasses. If you look you will see new growth already pushing on Feather Reed Grass and some others.
Make sure that you keep your fingers safely away from your clippers. I have seen more than one person end up needing stitches because they weren’t paying attention.
You want to cut the stems back to a height of 2-3″. At this time of year with Kentucky weather and the possibility of additional cold snaps I would recommend you leave any leaf “mulch” that may be around your plants to provide some extra insulation from the cold. I would wait to apply any fertilizer at this point; things should warm up consistently enough by the end of the month for you to look at your fertilization needs then.
This is not a pretty picture but it’s what a lot of the pruning I’ve seen done after the ice storms looks like. Not pruning properly can cause a lot of long term problems for your trees making them more susceptible to insects and disease. This series of photographs I am posting will walk you through the proper way to prune. Click on the photograph at the top of this post and it will take you directly to the slideshow and explantations. Good luck and if you have any further questions you can always send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.