Saturday, March 13, 2010

March Tips for Ornamentals and Lawn

Here is a few tips from our UGA Thomas County Master Gardeners for the month of March.

• If you want flowers on your cactus, plant it in a small pot. Most cacti bloom sooner if root bound.

• Houseplants can be watered more frequently with the onset of spring and new growth.

• Apply a pre-emergent herbicide before lawn weeds get started. These chemicals work by preventing the seed from germinating. It is important that the herbicides be applied in early spring, before growth of the weed seedlings.

• Variegated plants can help add the illusion of light to a dark area. Shade-loving ground covers such as variegated liriope. Ivies, euonymous and hosta, can be very effective for this.

• Shrubs and trees in the home landscape break up sound waves and reduce the nerve-shattering noise of modern society. Plant some new shrubs and trees this spring to improve the beauty and ambiance of your home.

• If you haven’t done it already, check stored tools and outdoor furniture for signs of rust. Remove any surface rust with steel wool, and paint with rust-inhibitive paint.

• If your tiller turns over sluggishly in spring, before trying to start it, move it to a sunny location and cover it with a black garbage bag for half an hour. A few minutes of solar heating will warm up the fluids and make starting easier.

• Some gardeners start seedlings in vermiculite purchased at garden supply stores, but this medium does not contain the nutrients needed for sustained growth, so seedlings should be transplanted to soil when the second pair of true leaves form.

• Catnip is a hardy plant, but grow it in a large pot or tub to contain its invasive growth.

• Don’t buy more chemicals than you can use in a season - - the smaller the bottle, the better. If you overbought in the past and have aged garden chemicals you no longer use, dispose of them according to local regulations. Do not pour them down the drain or into the ground as this can pollute the water systems, damage the soil and possibly injure or kill plants, people and animals that may come in contact with the chemicals.

• A child’s first garden should include sunflowers from seeds. The large seeds sprout quickly and dependably, and the strong seedlings can push their way through crusted soil. If you are shooting for record sunflowers, your plants will need to top 20 feet in height with seed-head diameters of 2 feet to be in the running.

• Cover old stumps with soil to help hasten decay.

• Turn the compost pile and add manure.

• The most common nematodes are saprophytes that feed on decaying organic matter. They play a critical role maintaining the balance of nature in returning nutrients to the soil.

• Bluebells are superb for naturalizing in the same manner as daffodils but prefer a shadier location and will bloom even where they get no direct sun at all

• As tulip, narcissus and other large bulbs begin to emerge set pansy plants between them for added color.

• If weeds occur in bulb beds, do not cover them by cultivation. Pull them by hand so the bulbs and roots will not be disturbed.

• Don’t forget to fertilize naturalized bulbs in the spring as leaves emerge. Do not mow the area until the bulb foliage begins to die back.

• In your flower arrangements, avoid mixing cut daffodils with tulips. Daffodils produce a chemical “slime” that injures tulip blooms. If you wish to use two flowers in an arrangement, place the daffodils in another container for a day after cutting, then rinse off the stems and add to the vase of tulips. Adding 1 tablespoon of activated charcoal or 6 drops of bleach to each quart of water also helps.

• Reposition stepping stones that have heaved or sunk below grass level. Lift them up, spread sand in the low areas, and replace the rocks. A bed of sand under the stones will aid drainage and decrease having to do it again next year.

• Be aware that a brown plastic material that looks and feels like natural burlap, but does not break down in the soil, is now being used to wrap root balls of balled and burlapped plants. Synthetic materials enclosing the roots of trees and shrubs must be completely removed to ensure success of the transplants.

• Potted azaleas, available through Easter, will flower for two to three weeks, if the soil is kept slightly moist. Display in a cool (60 degrees F) bright location, and remove withered flowers. Unless you have room to experiment, discard when blooms fade since most florist azaleas are not hardy enough to be established outdoors.

• Prune evergreen shrubs before growth starts.

• Boxwood should be pruned by thinning the outer foliage of the plant and cutting back the branches to retain desired height.

• Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering is completed.

• Plant roses and bare-root shrubs while they are still dormant about four weeks before the average date of the late frost.

• Propagate deciduous shrubs, such as forsythia and winter jasmine, now by ground layering.

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