Spring has (reluctantly) sprung and with it comes a laundry list of early season gardening tasks. Year after year I am asked many of the same gardening questions, I see many of the same mistakes being made and find too many of you working a lot harder than necessary to maintain your landscapes.
With the goal of making your spring gardening tasks efficient and as painless as possible I pose the following true/false spring gardening quiz:
- 1. Now that the snow has melted, it is the ideal time for me to spread mulch in all my landscape beds.
- 2. The best way to control weeds in my landscape beds is to spray them with herbicide as soon as they begin to grow.
- 3. I can effectively apply crabgrass control on my lawn up until the time the Forsythias are finished blooming.
- 4. Proper pruning will greatly enhance the beauty, blooming and longevity of my landscape plants.
- 5. Once the temperatures get above 75 degrees I can plant my vegetable and annual flowering plants.
- 6. It is a good idea to fertilize perennials, shrubs and trees every spring.
- 7. It doesn’t really matter what type of mulch I use on my landscape beds.
- 8. I should apply weed and feed as soon as I see the first dandelion bloom in my lawn.
- 9. As long as the soil is not muddy or frozen it is a good time to plant a tree.
- 10. I can successfully divide any perennial plant in the spring.
1. False. Mulch applied to cold and wet soils will keep that soil cold and wet. This can be harmful to your landscape plants. Soils should be allowed to warm up and dry out before mulch is spread. Often, this may not occur until late May or even early June.
2. False. The ideal time to begin controlling weeds is before they begin to grow. By applying a germination inhibitor (Preen) you can prevent weeds from gaining a foothold in your garden. The first application should be made in early-mid April and then again in May and June.
3. True. Crabgrass plants do not survive the winter but disperse seeds in the fall that sprout once the soil warms up in spring. By applying crabgrass control in early spring you are killing these crabgrass seeds before they begin to grow and Forsythias are an indicator of soil temperatures that are sufficient for crabgrass germination.
4. True. Conversely, improper pruning can diminish landscape longevity and performance. Most pruning is best done during winter dormancy but selective pruning can be performed throughout the year.
5. False. The average last frost date here is May 20th but even at that time soil temperatures can be very cold in some areas. Pansies, Snapdragons, Petunias and Cabbages are quite tolerant of cooler soil temperatures and can be planted earlier while Begonias, Caladium, Sweet Potato Vine, Tomatoes and Cucumbers are very sensitive to cold soil and benefit from later planting.
6. True-ish. There is no doubt that fertilizing plants helps them perform much better but there are certainly situations when plants perform well without supplemental fertilization. Soil conditions, plant age and relative health are all determining factors on whether or not fertilization is necessary. Plants like Azaleas, Rhododendrons and evergreens will often show signs of nutrition deficiency and benefit from regular feedings. Plants under stress due to drought or newly planted specimens will also benefit. After harsh winters, like we have just experienced, you will find a spring fertilization to be helpful to plants that may have had some winter damage. For those of us with poor soils, fertilizer provides nutrients that our soils may lack.
7. False. Many of the mulches available today (especially dyed mulches) are made from recycled wood products. When wood (cellulose) is introduced into the soil environment, populations of microbes that naturally consume the wood reproduce rapidly. These soil microbes also consume nutrients essential for landscape plant growth so your mulch is competing with your mulch for food. Using natural bark mulches that have much lower cellulose content provides a much healthier environment for your plants. Black mulches also absorb additional heat to the soil that is not beneficial for most landscape plants.
8. False. Your granular weed and feed products work primarily by sticking to the leaves of undesirable, broad-leaf weeds. When your first dandelion appears, there are many weed seedlings under the lawn canopy that are far too small to be efficiently contacted by a granular herbicide application. Given 2 or 3 more weeks of growth, a much greater percentage of weeds will be controlled.
9. True. We always want to avoid planting in mud but, other than frozen ground, there are no restrictions for tree planting. There are more restrictions for harvesting (digging) trees but not as many for planting.
10. False. The general rule of thumb is spring blooming plants should be divided/transplanted in fall, summer/fall blooming perennials are transplanted/divided in spring. Many perennials are forgiving and readily transplant nearly any time (Daylily, Hosta, Daisy) and others resent transplanting at any time (Baptisia, Lupine, Bleeding Heart, Peony and Poppy).
Well, how did you do? Whatever your score, I hope this information will help make your gardening time more efficient and your gardens more beautiful than ever before.
If you have any specific questions about any of your lawn, yard or garden issues feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] I would be happy to hear from you.
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt.