Gardening Tips

Early Spring Gardening

Be Patient with the Winter Blues: Some gardeners discover what looks like damaged plants in their landscapes in early spring. One of the first things many people want to do upon this finding is replace plants that aren’t looking well – those that have a few brown needles or leaves. Early spring is not the time to move too quickly, removing and replacing any plants that have a little damage. We must be patient and give our plants time to show new growth. Many plants, deciduous and evergreens alike, can experience problems due to a harsh winter. If portions of your plants are not leafing out and showing new growth, you may want to remove the upper 25% of the plant to try to stimulate new growth in the remaining portion of the plant. One thing we want to avoid is removing damaged plants from the soil too soon. When the root system is established and the plant is ready to grow, it would be unfortunate to remove the shrub/tree and have to start all over getting the plant established again.

Pruning: During winter up until March is a good time for evergreen shrubs like Taxus or Yews. These can be trimmed severely at this time of year. Euonymus and boxwood are some other evergreens that can be pruned ‘hard’ at this time. Be careful with severe pruning of junipers as some may not respond well but this is the best time of year to prune them.

Early spring blooming shrubs like forsythia, bridal wreath (Spirea), rose of sharon (Althea) and mock orange should not be pruned now. Wait to prune immediately after flowering or you will not have flowers until the following year. However, now is the time to prune summer-blooming shrubs such as butterfly bush and Rose of Sharon that may have outgrown their spaces last year. You can also prune most roses, too.

Check out this table from Virginia Tech that may help you determine when to prune various flowering trees and shrubs.

Vegetables: Now is the time to plant Cole crops from transplants or ‘starts’. It is time to plant others from seed like carrots, radishes, beets, peas, lettuce, onions and spinach. Potatoes can be planted in March most years but colder temperatures that month can postpone planting. All the bare root veggies like rhubarb and asparagus should be planted now as long as the ground is workable.

Smiling-faced pansiesFlowers: We are still a few weeks away from our frost-free date, May 15, as established by the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. It is considered “safe” to plant the majority of annuals after this date. Even so, there are plenty of plants that can add color in the yard. A number of annuals can be planted now that will tolerate frost – Pansies, Violas, Snapdragons, and Dianthus. These provide fabulous color. Perennials such as English Daisies, Mt. Pinks, Primrose and many more can be put in the ground. Trees, shrubs and roses are also ready to plant.

All these early plantings allow the plants to become well established while the weather is cool. It is a good idea to wait until the soil warms up to plant warmer types of plants from seed or starter plants like Impatiens and the many warm season vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers.

Lawns: Certainly you have noticed how fast our lawns are growing. It is very important to keep the grass cut regularly with a sharp blade. It is best not to remove more than 1/3 of the blade of grass at one time. When you can keep up with the mowing between showers your grass will respond by developing a thick turf that will crowd out weeds and add real value to your real estate investment. Your lawn sets off the whole yard.

Let’s remember the warmer weather is coming. Patience is a virtue.

Wishing you the best gardening year ever,

The gardening team at Meadow View