Get Into the Garden!
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General Yard and Garden Tasks:
- Before the grass cutting season gets underway, clean up sticks and stones in the yard so they do not become missiles when you do begin to mow.
- If you haven’t already, clean out debris and old nests from birdhouses during March. Clean and fill birdbaths. Bird nesting will soon be in full swing. Be sure to provide plenty of bird seed and even some 3-inch long pieces of string or yarn mixed in with the seed to help with nest-building. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/providing-nest-material-for-birds-dos-donts/
- Check yard décor and hardscape. Any wobbly stepping stones? Reposition them, firming them up.
- After all danger of freezing has passed, place a rain gauge in the garden. It can help you know when plants need to be watered.
- Have you had your soils tested? The only way to know what, if anything, you need to add to your soil is to professionally test your soil. The Cooperative Extension Service in your county offers this service. Soil tests cost $4 up until April 1. (They are free from April 1 to after Thanksgiving.) https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/careful-soil-sampling-the-key-to-reliable-soil-test-information
Know Your Hardiness Region:
- Check the USDA hardiness zone map for your area at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
- Be aware of the typical last frost date by checking
- Use what you learn to guide you in planting your summer garden.
- Avoid working garden soil if it is too wet. Doing so can lead to compaction, which can impede root penetration and cause poor drainage. To help you decide when your soil is ready to work, try the test described in this article from Purdue University: https://www.purdue.edu/hla/sites/yardandgarden/resist-the-urge-to-work-wet-soil/
- Incorporate aged compost, commercial organic soil conditioner, PermaTill (if moles or voles are a problem), or any combination of these three before planting your spring garden.
- For best results, cool-season vegetables should be planted before April. These include leafy crops, and peas. Refer to the planting calendar found at https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/central-north-carolina-planting-calendar-for-annual-vegetables-fruits-and-herbs
- Sow seeds of warm-season vegetables indoors or in greenhouses. Refer to the above planting calendar to know when to transplant them to the garden.
- Are you short on garden space? Consider container gardening. Many vegetables can be grown indoors or on a patio. See these professional articles at https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/container-garden-planting-calendar-for-edibles-in-the-piedmont and https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/gardening/vegetable-gardening-in-containers/
- Herbs are a wonderful way to enhance all your meals, including the vegetables you will be growing in your garden. Once the danger of frost has passed, it is time to plant herbs. Plant plenty of your favorites, realizing that it takes at least twice as much fresh herbs as dried to equal the same amount of flavor in cooking. A great article covering many aspects of growing and using herbs can be found at https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1170&title=Herbs%20in%20Southern%20Gardens
Trees and Shrubs
- Spring is a good time to plant shrubs, including berry-producing shrubs.
- In April, remove and replace mulch around azaleas, roses, and camellias if you think disease or insects are a problem. Disease spores and insects may have overwintered in this material.
- It is time to give attention to your fruit trees, such as pruning them and following a program to control disease and insects. Your local extension office can be a great source of information to help you with your fruit trees. Check out this publication from NC State University: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/15-tree-fruit-and-nuts
- After the flowers of spring-flowering bulbs begin to fade, cut back the stalks. However, do not cut back the foliage until it turns brown. Next year’s flowers depend on the energy the green leaves absorb from the sun. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/spring-flowering-bulbs/
- Forsythias can be pruned after the flowers fade. Select older, larger branches to remove, cutting them back to the ground. This allows the shrub to maintain its graceful shape and its ability to “dance in the wind.”
- Warm season turf will soon be greening up. Regardless of what kind of grass you grow, be sure to visit https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/ for specific information to care for and improve your lawn. Performing a soil test on your lawn areas through your local Cooperative Extension Service will help you know how much of what nutrients you may need to add. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/careful-soil-sampling-the-key-to-reliable-soil-test-information
Becky Garrett is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.